2010 Census: Census Bureau Generally Follows Selected Leading Acquisition Planning Practices, but Continued Management Attention Is Needed to Help Ensure Success

GAO-06-277 Published: May 18, 2006. Publicly Released: May 18, 2006.
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For the 2010 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) is making the most extensive use of contractors in its history to supply a number of mission-critical functions and technologies. Because of the critical role that contractors will play in the 2010 Census, GAO reviewed the Bureau's acquisition planning process. Specifically GAO's objectives were to (1) determine the status of the Bureau's major decennial contracts, and (2) evaluate the extent to which the Bureau is using selected leading practices to manage its acquisition planning for these contracts.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
U.S. Census Bureau To help the Bureau improve the management of the 2010 Census, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to ensure that the key systems to be developed or provided by contractors for the 2010 Census are fully functional and ready to be assessed in concert with other operations as part of the 2008 Dress Rehearsal.
Closed – Not Implemented
The Census Bureau (Bureau) reports that the 2008 Dress Rehearsal was curtailed due to problems with the handheld computers (HHC) and on April 3, 2008 redesigned the 2010 Census. As such the Bureau was unable to test all IT systems as we recommended during the 2008 dress rehearsal. According to its November 2008 high-risk improvement plan, the Bureau planned to conduct a comprehensive test of systems in isolation. However, each iteration of IT systems testing revealed new problems, requiring additional testing. However, time has run out for testing and as a result IT systems for managing enumeration activities were not fully functional.
U.S. Census Bureau To help the Bureau improve the management of the 2010 Census, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to establish a schedule for the definition of interfaces between all decennial systems so that these data can be provided on a timely basis to development teams.
Closed – Implemented
To ensure the successful integration of decennial census systems, in 2006 GAO recommended that the Bureau establish a schedule to define interfaces between all decennial systems so that development teams would have this information on a timely basis. In May 2009, the Bureau implemented our recommendation when it established a list of all 122 interfaces in the 2010 Census and their testing status.
U.S. Census Bureau To help the Bureau improve the management of the 2010 Census, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to devote further attention to planning strategically for its decennial acquisition workforce by (1) assessing, at a higher level within the agency, whether it has the acquisition-related skills needed to conduct the 2010 Census by developing strategies to identify and address gaps, monitoring and evaluating progress toward closing gaps, and adjusting strategies accordingly; and (2) identifying the needs of the acquisition workforce in its human capital management plan or another acquisition-specific workforce plan and involving appropriate stakeholders in this planning effort.
Closed – Implemented
The Census Bureau took steps to improve its acquisition workforce for two major decennial contracts--the Field Data Collection Automation and Decennial Response Integration System contracts. For both of these contracts, the Bureau filled positions in the management office with business and technical staff that can support the contracts. In May 2010, the Bureau reported that it closed the skill gaps in the acquisition workforce by filling all staff management positions through a combination of new hires and staff details. Positions were posted for internal and external candidates to apply. The Bureau also formed a Human Capital Working Group spearheaded by the Department of Commerce, Office of Acquisition Management. The working group meets and works together to further develop and enhance the human capital management plan and to ensure that the plan is effectively implemented and executed.

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