My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Census Bureau Director’s remarks from today’s press conference show significant operational problems/MyTwoCensus commentary/scathing criticism

The Census Bureau posted the remarks that Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert M. Groves made today online before they were actually said in public, so there wasn’t much of a need to live-blog the event. Please find the speech from Dr. Groves HERE, but I will also provide you with commentary and highlights below…

Here are the highlights from Dr. Groves’ speech and MyTwoCensus commentary (being updated as it is typed):

Dr. Groves says: “As I reported in our last briefing, one area of concern was our paper-based operational control system (PBOCS). Despite major problems at the onset, the system is starting to stabilize, and we are cautiously optimistic that we may be catching up on the check-in process.”

MyTwoCensus Commentary: Are you kidding me? Starting to stabilize? This system was developed two years ago and this operation is already more than halfway through its allotted time period. How can you spin this “cautious optimism” as a solution to a $3 billion operation?

Dr. Groves says, “The problems with this system seriously slowed the check-in of group quarters and enumerator forms in the field. Several field operations were affected. And we have had to implement separate alternative methods to handle the check-out and shipping of forms to the data capture

MyTwoCensus Commentary: What are these “separate alternative methods?” Is the data safe using alternative methods? What are the costs of designing, implementing, and activating these new systems?

Dr. Groves says, “In the first week of the door-to-door (non-response follow-up) operation, the system was not reliable; work was assigned to enumerators through a manual backup to make sure that the no harm was done to completing the field work. ”

MyTwoCensus Commentary: What about the millions of taxpayer dollars that were wasted as workers just sat around doing nothing while they waited for assignments? Isn’t “harm” being done because the operation has a limited budget and wasted time means that the real work won’t be able to get done later on?

Dr. Groves says: “Right now the system is letting us check in about two million forms a day and if this pace continues we should be able to catch up.”

MyTwoCensus Commentary: And what if this pace doesn’t continue because the system continues to crash and operate without stability as it has all along? There have been a multitude of reports to MyTwoCensus that completed questionnaires are literally piling up by the thousands at local census offices because the “system” is unable to process them in a timely fashion. This results in the appearance that residences were not visited, and then enumerators get sent BACK into the field to re-enumerate the same individuals whose completed questionnaires are laying around collecting dust at an office until they are put into the system.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I will rail and rail and rail against the Census Bureau for their lax fingerprinting procedures. (This is something that I have been writing about for OVER A YEAR NOW, and the Census Bureau only changed their policies once a sex offender was hired and a handicapped woman was raped. Both of these incidents would have been unnecessary had the Census Bureau listened to the advice I and others posted on…)

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13 Responses to “Census Bureau Director’s remarks from today’s press conference show significant operational problems/MyTwoCensus commentary/scathing criticism”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Thanks, My Two Census! :)

  2. anonymous Says:

    Daily Sound Off – Worst LCO

    Census CL June 1: “There is no official tracking of EQs”!!!! :(

  3. BTK census worker Says:

    Most of the time you are more accurate than not but not this time. Forms are being processed as fast as they come in and the back log is nearly gone. Perhaps office workers were paid for hours when they had little work but enumeration never stopped and some of those office workers were sent home. You can’t have it both ways pal. First you bust on Census for sending people home pretending that they were promised so many hours of work. Then you bust on Census for having workers being idle and still paid. This is a dynamic operation and flexibility is what makes it happen.

  4. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    @BTK – Unfortunately, I have multiple reports that forms are piling up higher and higher and higher…

  5. anonymous Says:

    Today the U.S. Census stated it had almost 574,00 temporary employees on it’s payroll by mid-May. How many employees worked a couple hours/week or were waiting for CL to give them work?

  6. nylonsandcigarettes Says:

    In a quote from the epic “Das Boot”, presumably inspired by real experience on actual tours of duty, the Commander says “You’ve got to have good men”. I would speculate that Diocletian and Zhukov would agree. Though it would now likely be “persons”, I would guess that Dr. Groves would agree too.

    Our LCO has faced the same issues as reflected anywhere on My2C, and it must come down to all that stuff in the middle. The HHC, for example- I was already out using in ADD_CAN when Dr. G was pointed at the hot seat and told “sit”. As I get it, the closest he got to that wizardry was 20 years ago, probably when its progenitors were counting whatever you count when you’re minus 20 years- I don’t recall- and Dr. G was developing his own approach to statistics. If he’d take a job as a prison guard to study the sociology of jails, he might have done his homework for this, too, and it appears he did in statistics, and even came up with a new idea to smooth this process, whatever your view of that itself.

    As I see it from My2C and our LCO both is that the quality of decision-making at another level is to blame. I’ve seen people I really don’t need calling the shots doing just that. I worked for actual decades- though not many- in high-pressure environs where missing one small factor can cost the whole adventure, lots of money, and your own never doing it in this town again. I’ve never, ever, ever seen some people wanting out of a job as much as some here.

    “Hi, uh… Bob, is it? I’d like you to be the lucky one to make this pig fly. We’re on in a few, so I’ll warm you up on it. I know you did some of it 20 years ago- this’ll be easy. We’ve already done this other stuff for you- here’s a nifty little computer thingie that the GAO doesn’t like us for. It’s called lots of names; we just say HHC. It’ll do everything- and it won’t- all at the same time. Our contractors thunk it up- of course we had to change it along the way, but we got it now. Gotta be flexible in these busy times! Now, we’re going to run out and hire a bunch of people who might get along- and many won’t- so we’ll REALLY hire a BUNCH. They’re your ambassadors to the public. They were career Census/DoC people themselves, well 1 or 2, as well as the bored soccer moms, people who don’t have much together otherwise, CEOs of now dead companies, PhDs with a lot of time to kill; some of them actually care about this thing, others, well… “it’s a $16 temp job” is their attitude (it’s gone up- this clerk is now AMsomething- I guess it’s a $25 or so temp job now)… it reflects the melting pot. A few will clobber each other… some’ll get attacked, a few will take out this government angst on the public… what a vibrant country we have!

    “You know, there’s a bunch of folks who don’t like us from something about WW2. Oh, a few more now who think we’ll deport them. Vulcans too.. you know we really want to count everyone. I know your estimating thing sounds good on paper, but you’ll get criticized for it, so we’d better not- just stick to our script and you’ll do fine. If we forgot something, you can ad lib for us, can’t you? Here, have a brownie the AMR made- great, isn’t it? Don’t worry about a thing, you’ll do fine. You’re good at stats, we know- and this is all about stats after all. We just added all the limits and restrictions for you… we have the experts, you know.

    “Oh- don’t forget to mention PBOCS- it’s pretty hot right now. Don’t worry- the pros found that we can get on at 4AM and it’ll sort out eventually.

    “Hey- here’s one: “Life’s just like a box of BC-170Ds- you never know what you’re gonna get.” Funny, huh?

    “OK- here’s some water for that brownie. Remember- we all got you covered- even the rapists we hired for you- remember PBOCS— nice energy!

    “In 5—-4—-3—-2—-1—-”

  7. Ex-IT Says:

    Definitely seeing a big reduction in backlog in the past week. The big improvement came when they started to enforce limits on the number of PBOCS users per LCO. Before that, some Regional Directors were sending emails to the LCOMs telling them PBOCS was “Underutilized” (!) and put on more users, even as PBOCS was crashing from overload.

    One of the problems with the alternative shipping software is that it has no way to validate whether a questionnaire went through office review and was checked into PBOCS.

    Fingerprinting again. Before you launch into that, you may want to look into what the LCOs think about the Live Scan “Solution”. Slow (15-45 min per person), bulky, clunky, buggy and fussy. We found that the results were inferior to even our shakiest ink based fingerprints from our most inexperienced human finger printers. I’ve seen a lot of nearly perfect cards from our LCO get rejected by the FBI (who knows why, maybe a small smudge in the corner), but if Live Scan generated it, seems like you could send in doggy paw prints and get it accepted. In fairness, I have seen some Live Scan cards done by professionals at police departments that are very good. But I’ve also seen Live Scan cards done at a major police department that are worse than our our first attempts during training.

  8. end the census Says:

    Regarding “lax fingerprinting techniques” the bureau maybe has changed its policy, but it certainly hasn’t changed its practices. There are still many “sworn and badged” census employees whose fingerprints still haven’t passed muster, ye these employees are on the payroll and out every day roaming through American’s neighborhoods.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Not sure if you are just making things up or getting faulty info, but there is no way enumerators are going back out to enumerate locations that have EQ’s waiting inj the office to be checked in. Since the EQ is in the office, the enumerator does not have the EQ to take back out. Get your facts straight before you try to “look” smart when obviously you have come into this process so anti census. is your real name Michelle Bachman??

  10. Census CL Says:

    1) The backlog in our region is pretty much on track to be eliminated. They change the number of allowed users of PBOCS at each LCO based on reports sent to the RCC every three hours. We had 4 “licenses” for three days, caught up (0 backlog) and were assign no licenses today so another LCO could use the capacity to catch up.

    The LCOs that went “all out” in the first week have the biggest issues, as even with PBOCS running as intended, there are not enough computers in the offices to handle more than a few thousand questionnaires a day (even running 24/7). The LCOs that forecast this just reduced the allowed hours of the enumerators the first few weeks, reduced the amount of initial questionnaires coming in, and have had a lot less backlog issues.

    The new oracle/peoplesoft platform for shipping questionnaires works 24/7 and was probably the only short term solution for reducing load on the obviously inadequate PBOCS.

    2) The Livescan solution is barely any better than manual ink fingerprints. No matter how you take them it is all about technique and practice. The Livescan scanner takes a very long time to process someones fingerprints as it basically just makes sure that there is a good contrast to the print so a scanner can clearly read the image.

    It doesn’t take them for you, it doesn’t make sure you have captured the important details of a fingerprint. It just makes you roll the finger over and over again until it says that there is a image where you can see the ridges clearly. You are often forced to accept what the system indicates are possibly poor or indeed poor quality images because after 30 minutes of rolling there doesn’t seem to be any way to get any improvement.

    In my opinion, the only 100% solution would be to send employees whose initial fingerprint cards fail to experts like police departments. But then you would have the expense and someone would likely point out that the police could be protecting the public in a better manner than by taking fingerprints of older census workers who have difficult to fingerprint fingers.

    The one good part – my clothes stay ink free.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    There is a new fingerprint procedure which will not let anyone (new hires) work before their finger prints clear the background check. That will prevent anyone from working who shouldn;t be out there.

  12. anonymous Says:

    Anonymous, glad to see an improved fingerprint precedure.

  13. Beth Says:

    Enumerators are NEVER paid for “sitting around”–they are paid by the hour for work performed. If there is no work, they do not get paid.