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Lawmakers: Will Census Tech Be Ready to Test or Not?

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The House oversight committee asked the government’s watchdog to figure out whether the Census Bureau is ready for the upcoming test of the 2020 Census tech.

The bureau’s plan to modernize how it captures census data, called the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing program, is scheduled to start year-long, end-to-end testing in August 2017. Concerns about the timeline stem from a June 9 hearing that revealed many key systems haven’t been deployed and the program opted to buy commercial-off-the-shelf products, according to an Aug. 10 letter from Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Gerald Connolly, D-Va., to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

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The bureau changed procurement tactics in May to include commercially available products. “We have determined that a hybrid approach—integrating a [COTS] platform with specific solutions developed by Census experts—will best meet our needs,” according to Census Director John Thompson’s written testimony.

The committee, however, has questions about whether the switch will cause delays.

“We are concerned about the bureau’s ability to reengineer business processes, and configure, integrate and test production-level systems in time for this critical test, especially in the light of the short window that remains before the end-to-end test begins,” the letter states.

The letter requests GAO examines the status of the COTS procurement, whether the bureau can address any issues the test may reveal, and what the bureau plans as an alternative for conducting the Census “should it be determined that the currently expected method fails testing.”

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