Oversight Committees’ Leadership Highlights GAO Report on 2020 Census

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in highlighting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the Census Bureau’s preparations for and readiness to deliver an internet response option for the 2020 Decennial Census.

The report, “2020 Census: Key Challenges Need to Be Addressed to Successfully Enable Internet Response” outlines the progress underway at the Census Bureau to deliver an internet response for the upcoming 2020 census, but describes several challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure success. The report found that the Census needs to develop better cost estimates for the internet response, answer key questions related to the internet self-response rate, determine the information technology infrastructure needed to support an internet response, and estimate timeframes for making decisions related to cloud computing to support the internet option.

Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: “The 2020 Census will be the first decennial census to fully implement the Internet Response option for households to respond to the survey. However, the Bureau’s track record for implementing new technological approaches in conducting the Census is questionable. The Bureau spent $3 billion on a substantial information technology infrastructure for the 2010 Census before scrapping the project. We can all agree that thorough preparation and maintaining scheduled deadlines is essential for the Bureau to avoid wasting billions of taxpayer dollars in order to implement 21st Century technology in the 2020 Census.”

Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: “In just five years, work related to the Census Bureau’s top responsibility – the 2020 Decennial Census – will  be underway. Given that most Americans use the internet to do everything from daily communications to paying bills to commuting to work, it makes sense that the public expects the option of responding to the 2020 Census questionnaire online, too. That being said, the internet option offered by the Census Bureau must be cost-effective, secure, and heed the lack of internet access in certain segments of the population. Today’s report from GAO shows that the Census Bureau needs to do a better job of planning for the internet option in order to inform its September 2015 preliminary design deadline. But this is a shared responsibility. As the report shows, Congress needs to do its part and fund the planning and testing activities necessary to ramp up Bureau preparations and ensure that the 2020 Census will be a success. I look forward to working with the Bureau and my colleagues in Congress to ensure the Bureau plans and achieves a more cost-efficient, modern, and accurate 2020 Census.”

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Providing Americans with an option to respond to the 2020 Census online is a practical advancement that is projected to improve participation and save costs. The GAO report highlights the need for the Census Bureau to identify how the technology will be implemented to achieve the goals of cost savings and effective user interface. The House Oversight Committee will continue to follow the progress of the Census Bureau to ensure that this new technology is ready in time.”

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “The Census Bureau works tirelessly to gather critical data that lawmakers, businesses, municipalities, and others use every day to accurately plan programs and resource allocation. I agree with the Government Accountability Office’s finding that the Bureau should develop a better cost estimate for the planned internet response option for the Decennial Census. I look forward to working with the Bureau as it implements its innovative research, testing, and design plans for the 2020 census, which have the potential to yield substantial costs savings.”