2020 Census: Operations Are Underway with Challenges Remaining

GAO-20-367T Published: Feb 12, 2020. Publicly Released: Feb 12, 2020.
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Fast Facts

The Census Bureau began its decennial count of the U.S. population in January 2020.

We testified that the Census Bureau’s early operations are generally on schedule. For example, the Bureau successfully completed address canvassing and opened its call centers.

However, it is behind on some of its goals—like recruiting enough workers—and needs to address concerns with its internet response system. In addition, IT and cybersecurity challenges remain.

The 2020 Census is on our High Risk list. We’ve made 112 recommendations about the 2020 Census over the past decade. As of February 2020, 28 of them had not been fully implemented.

A census worker approaching a house

A census worker approaching a house

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This testimony summarizes information contained in GAO's February 2020 report, entitled 2020 Census: Initial Enumeration Underway but Readiness for Upcoming Operations Is Mixed (GAO-20-368R).

In the coming months, the 2020 Decennial Census will begin its operations to count the population of the United States. The success of these operations relies on the Bureau’s preparations, including recruiting and hiring a sufficient work force, developing and testing IT systems, and maintaining public trust to ensure participation by developing community partnerships, combating disinformation, and protecting the privacy of respondent data. The Bureau is actively managing these preparations, but faces significant risks that could adversely impact the cost, quality, schedule, and security of the count.

Over the past decade, GAO has made 112 recommendations specific to the 2020 Census to help address issues such as cost estimation, key innovations, and acquisition and development of IT systems. The Department of Commerce has generally agreed with the recommendations. As of February 2020, 28 of the recommendations had not been fully implemented.

GAO was asked to provide regular updates on the 2020 Census. This report examines the cost and progress of key 2020 census operations critical to a cost-effective enumeration, and early warnings, if any, that may require Census Bureau or congressional attention.

The Bureau provided technical comments that were incorporated as appropriate.

For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or by email at mihmj@gao.gov and Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or by email at marinosn@gao.gov.

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