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Highlights

The Census Bureau (Bureau) and U.S. Postal Service (USPS) collaborated on aspects of the 2010 Census and prior decennials, and those efforts generally went well in such areas as address list development. But both agencies face challenges: the Bureau needs to control the escalating cost of the decennial census and maintain its accuracy, while USPS must improve its financial condition. As requested, GAO examined opportunities to enhance collaboration in such areas as technology, personnel, and facilities that could improve the cost-effectiveness of the 2020 Census and generate revenue for USPS. GAO analyzed Bureau and USPS data and documents, compared the agencies' existing collaborative efforts with prior GAO work, and interviewed agency officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce 1. Given the importance of Bureau and USPS collaboration in successfully executing census operations, as part of future partnership activities, the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by assessing whether strategies can be developed to reduce the number of undeliverable as addressed mailings.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2011 we reported that the 2010 Census address file contained a significant number of undeliverable as addressed census mailings and recommended that the Census Bureau and USPS work together and determine whether strategies can be developed to reduce those mailings. In response to this recommendation the Census Bureau has developed several strategies to reduce the number of undeliverable as addressed mailings. For example, the Census Bureau and USPS have met jointly to discuss ways to reduce "undeliverable as addressed" (UAA) mailings. Further, the Bureau has developed and is taking action on a number of strategies to reduce the UAA workload including a Bureau Geographic Support System Initiative focused on the mailability and deliverability of materials to individual housing units. As part of this initiative the Bureau's Geography Division in late 2011 evaluated the cause of the UAA data and whether there were any associated spatial patterns and has determined that more research needs to be done. The Geography Division is also investigating the feasibility of using of UAAs from American Community Survey to predict issues in the address file. Finally, the 2020 Research and Testing area has developed a database that links all housing unit and response actions-including UAAs, thus allowing the Bureau to look for trends in UAA data.
United States Postal Service 2. Given the importance of Bureau and USPS collaboration in successfully executing census operations, as part of future partnership activities, the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by assessing whether strategies can be developed to reduce the number of undeliverable as addressed mailings.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2011 we reported that the 2010 Census address file contained a significant number of undeliverable as addressed census mailings and recommended that the Census Bureau and USPS work together to determine whether strategies can be developed to reduce those mailings. In response to this recommendation, the USPS has engaged in collaborative strategies with the Census Bureau to encourage a successful partnership for the future. Since 2014, the USPS has worked with the Census to support 2020 Census planning through established collaboration by the creation of four sub teams composed of representatives from both groups with sub teams meeting jointly to report progress. Specifically related to undeliverable as addressed mailings, during late April and May 2015, the Census held discussions with USPS on the Maricopa Census Test to review requirements and data needed in order to research undeliverable as addressed mailings. The USPS has also agreed to do an onsite review of the National Processing Center mailing service which will provide Census staff with the information needed to choose the appropriate USPS service to achieve research needs for the 2020 Census.
Department of Commerce 3. Given the importance of Bureau and USPS collaboration in successfully executing census operations, as part of future partnership activities, the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by determining if there are ways that the Bureau could work with USPS to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2011, we reported that in hiring for the 2010 Census, the Bureau did not do a targeted recruitment of USPS employees and retirees, resulting in a missed opportunity to hire temporary census workers with a wealth of local knowledge. We recommended the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by determining if there are ways that the Bureau could work with USPS to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers. In response to this recommendation the Bureau and USPS have engaged in collaborative strategies to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers. Specifically, according to the Census Bureau as it considers different staffing strategies, it will leverage various groups of people including current and retired federal employees. In addition, Census officials noted that USPS reported that in remote areas the Bureau would have opportunities to recruit USPS workers.
United States Postal Service 4. Given the importance of Bureau and USPS collaboration in successfully executing census operations, as part of future partnership activities, the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by determining if there are ways that the Bureau could work with USPS to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2011, we reported that in hiring for the 2010 Census, the Bureau did not do a targeted recruitment of USPS employees and retirees, resulting in a missed opportunity to hire temporary census workers with a wealth of local knowledge. We recommended the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Commerce should direct their agencies to expand their collaborative efforts by determining if there are ways that the Bureau could work with USPS to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers. In response to this recommendation the Bureau and USPS have engaged in collaborative strategies to target recruitment opportunities to mail carriers. Specifically, USPS reported that in remote areas they believed the Bureau would have opportunities to recruit USPS workers.

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