Census Needs Better IT Plans for 2020, Auditor Says

Jason E. Miczek/AP File Photo

The bureau is considering using Internet surveys and asking field workers to BYOD.

The U.S. Census Bureau should keep a more diligent testing schedule for information technology initiatives related to the 2020 census or it risks not having a firm plan in place by a 2015 deadline, according to an auditor’s report released on Thursday.

Census plans to improve technology in 2020 include gathering some survey responses online and asking field surveyors to enter data using their own smartphones rather than issuing devices to them.

Out of six IT projects the bureau is researching, four don’t have finalized schedules, the Government Accountability Office found. The two projects with final schedules are not slated to be complete until after the September 2015 design deadline for the 2020 census,, GAO said.

Census also hasn’t prioritized its projects to determine which must be completed before the design deadline and which might wait, GAO said. Those projects stand a solid chance of reducing costs for the 2020 census, the auditor said, but poor scheduling could limit cost savings.

“A delayed design decision would cut into an already slim margin of error to develop, acquire, and test the operational systems that will be used for the 2020 Decennial Census,” GAO said. “In light of this, prioritizing activities and ensuring that schedules and project plans are completed in a way that is consistent with the prioritized approach could help ensure that the most essential information is available to inform this decision.”