Census Awards Last Major IT Contract Ahead of 2020 Count


The award comes as officials work to get preparations for the 2020 count back on track.

With the 2020 decennial just over the horizon, the Census Bureau awarded one of its final tech contracts and detailed strategies for locking down response data against potential cyber threats.

Unisys Corp. last week won a coveted three-year contract to stand up and manage the IT infrastructure that will power field operations through the entire 2020 count, according to an FCW report. The deal, announced Friday at the bureau’s quarterly program management review, is worth up to $102 million.

Under the contract, Unisys is responsible for building and supporting technical systems for some 250 regional census offices, six facilities in Puerto Rico and island territories, and more than 1,500 remote employees. That includes allotting, installing and testing tracking equipment, as well as troubleshooting and repairing faulty systems.

The company is also tasked with providing help desk services for two paper data capture centers, where the bureau will process mail-in responses, as well as decommissioning and wiping clean IT equipment at every site.

The award comes as officials work to get preparations for the 2020 count back on track. The bureau has found itself plagued by a number of complications over the last year, including budgetary shortcomings, shoddy employee background checks and botched field tests.

After the IT rollout fell behind schedule, Census officials also drastically reduced the amount of time spent assessing the cybersecurity of each system, conducting tests that ordinarily take six to eight weeks in a matter of days. The shortened timelines have raised concerns among federal tech experts, and the decennial’s cybersecurity remains a top concern for the Government Accountability Office.

During the review, Census Chief Information Officer Kevin Smith said the bureau has invested heavily in data encryption, employee cyber training and security analytics systems to bolster internal systems against potential data breaches and cyber attacks.

“Protection of the data we collect is the Census’ highest priority,” he said, adding the Homeland Security Department and intelligence community are assisting with those efforts.