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Highlights

GAO added the 2010 Census to its list of high-risk programs in 2008 in part because of (1) long-standing weaknesses in the Census Bureau's (Bureau) information technology (IT) acquisition and contract management function, (2) difficulties in developing reliable life-cycle cost estimates, and (3) key operations that were not tested under operational conditions. These issues jeopardized the Bureau's readiness for the count. Moreover, societal trends, such as concerns over privacy, have made a cost-effective census an increasingly difficult challenge. At about $13 billion, 2010 was the costliest U.S. Census in history. As requested, this testimony focuses on lessons learned from the 2010 Census, and initiatives that show promise for producing a more cost-effective population count in 2020. This testimony is based on completed and ongoing work, including an analysis of Bureau documents, interviews with Bureau officials, and field observations of census operations in urban and rural locations across the country.

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