Decennial Census:

Automation of the Geographic Support System

GGD-87-75BR: Published: May 27, 1987. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Census Bureau's development of its automated geographic support system to determine: (1) the system's estimated building and operating costs; (2) whether development was on schedule; and (3) whether the Bureau's management procedures were adequate to ensure the completion of a timely and cost-efficient system.

GAO found that: (1) the Bureau is behind schedule due to procurement problems and its underestimation of the system's complexity; (2) a computer software program the Bureau needed to divide computer files into county segments was 13 months behind schedule; (3) because building computer data files is sequential, delays in one task will affect the remaining tasks; and (4) continuing delays could affect the timely preparation of the maps the Bureau needs for canvassing suburban and rural areas. GAO also found that: (1) the Bureau's estimated 1986 costs for developing and using the system were $371 million, 91 percent higher than its 1982 estimate; (2) one major cause of increased costs was an unexpected increase in computer time requirements; and (3) lack of additional funding to cover the system's escalating costs could affect its completion and quality. GAO noted that the Bureau is planning to take steps to enhance its project management abilities to recognize and address problems early and is preparing contingency plans as a backup to the automated system.

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