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New Report Warns of “Significant Risks” to 2020 Census

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 12, 2020)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report finding major concerns with the Census Bureau’s preparations for the 2020 Census.

“Today’s new report warns that there are ‘significant risks’ to preparations for the 2020 Census.  We are only weeks away from the Census, but the Bureau faces a host of problems, including inadequate recruitment and hiring, missed target dates, insufficient progress working with community partners, significant cybersecurity challenges, and the list goes on.  We are holding today’s hearing to examine this report in detail and to help ensure a full, fair, and accurate count, as the Constitution requires.”

Below are the key findings from the GAO’s new report.

  • The Census Bureau “faces significant risks that could adversely impact the cost, quality, schedule, and security of the count.”

Census Bureau is Behind on Recruiting Enumerators

  • “The Bureau is behind in its recruiting of applicants for upcoming operations.  If the Bureau does not recruit sufficient individuals, it may have difficulty hiring enough staff to complete its upcoming operations within scheduled time frames.”
  • “As of February 3, 2020, the Bureau has recruited more than 2.1 million applicants. This falls short of its interim target to reach more than 2.5 million applicants by the same date.”
  • The Bureau “has not yet met its goals for hiring clerks . . . . Hiring sufficient clerks is particularly important since clerks assist with on-boarding the 320,000 to 500,000 enumerators needed for upcoming data collection operations.”

Census Bureau is Behind on Recruiting Community Partners

  • “[T]he Bureau has missed interim goals building towards its overall goal of 300,000 community partners by March 2020.”
  • “[P]artnerships are crucial in educating the public and maximizing survey response rates, particularly for hard-to-count populations, such as persons with disabilities and persons experiencing homelessness.”

Census Bureau is Behind on Developing Technology and Mitigating Cybersecurity Risks

  • “[A]s of January 2020, five of the remaining 11 operational deliveries were at risk of not meeting key near-term milestones planned for completing performance and scalability testing and/or integration testing by April 2020.”
  • “[I]n February 2020, the Bureau decided to use its backup system to manage internet responses for the 2020 Census.  Late design changes, such as the shift from one system to another, can introduce new risks, in part, because the backup system was not used extensively in earlier operational testing.”
  • “The Bureau also continues to face significant cybersecurity challenges, including those related to addressing cybersecurity weaknesses in a timely manner, resolving cybersecurity recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and addressing numerous other cybersecurity concerns (such as protecting the privacy of respondent data).”

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