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Highlights

Automation and information technology (IT) are expected to play a critical role in the 2010 decennial census. The Census Bureau plans to spend about $3 billion on automation and technology that are to improve the accuracy and efficiency of census collection, processing, and dissemination. The Bureau is holding what it refers to as a Dress Rehearsal, during which it plans to conduct operational testing that includes the decennial systems. In view of the importance of IT acquisitions to the upcoming census, GAO was asked to (1) determine the status and plans for four key IT acquisitions, including schedule and cost, and (2) assess whether the Bureau is adequately managing associated risks. To achieve its objectives, GAO analyzed acquisition documents and the projects' risk management activities and compared these activities to industry standards.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce 1. To ensure that the Bureau's four key acquisitions for the 2010 Census operate as intended, we are making four recommendations. First, to ensure that the Bureau's decennial systems are fully tested, the Secretary of Commerce should require the Director of the Census Bureau to direct the Decennial Management Division and Geography Division to plan for and perform end-to-end testing so that the full complement of systems is tested in a census-like environment.
Closed - Implemented
In July 2010, we verified, in response to our recommendation, the Census Bureau had planned for and performed end-to-end testing, involving multiple systems, for 35 of 40 key Census operations. More specifically, the Bureau completed testing of most of the key operations removed from the Dress Rehearsal, including Group Quarters Enumeration, Nonresponse Follow-up, Enumeration at Transitory Locations, and Census Coverage Measurement.
Department of Commerce 2. To strengthen risk management activities for the decennial census acquisitions, the Secretary should also direct the Director of the Census Bureau to ensure that project teams identify and develop a comprehensive list of risks for the acquisitions, particularly those for system interfaces and mobile computing devices, and analyze them to determine probability of occurrence and appropriate mitigating actions.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Bureau established risk registers for the major IT systems, including risks related to mobile computing devices and system interfaces, which include mitigation plan steps and a schedule for completing the necessary mitigation actions.
Department of Commerce 3. To strengthen risk management activities for the decennial census acquisitions, the Secretary should also direct the Director of the Census Bureau to ensure that project teams develop risk mitigation plans for the significant risks, including defining the mitigating actions, milestones, thresholds, and resources.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Bureau developed risk mitigation plans which include mitigation plan steps and a schedule for completing the necessary mitigation actions.
Department of Commerce 4. To strengthen risk management activities for the decennial census acquisitions, the Secretary should also direct the Director of the Census Bureau to ensure that project teams provide regular briefings on significant risks to senior executives, so that they can play a role in mitigating these risks.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the project teams provide monthly status reports to senior Bureau executives and quarterly briefings to the Department of Commerce IT Review Board that include significant project risks.

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