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.

Key White House staffer admits Harris Corp. failed the American people

Peter Orszag is the White House’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Below are excerpts of a June 8 speech delivered to the Center for American Progress, courtesy of the Federal Times.

(Please have a look through the archives to learn more about the Harris Corp. handheld-computer debacle that cost US taxpayers $800 million, not the $600 million that Orszag states below, because an additional $200 million was awarded to the contractors after their initial failure to create a usable product.)

Here’s what he said:

For example, the Census Bureau awarded in 2006 a $595 million contract to develop a hand-held computer for census workers to use this year. Two years and $600 million later, the project was canceled with nothing to show for it.

And census workers out there today still use pen and paper.

Clearly, we have massive room for improvement. Pursuing that improvement and closing the IT gap will help us create a government that is more efficient and less wasteful, and that is … more responsive to the American people.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17 Responses to “Key White House staffer admits Harris Corp. failed the American people”

  1. Dairyland CL Says:

    Also $200,000,000 in 2002 for the initial phase of the project. One Billion US$ total. A Florida company. Remember Florida in 2000? You know; hanging chads, failed election process, Jeb Bush as governor, Supreme Court decision in favor of G.W. Bush? Was this another of G.W.’s famous “no bid” contracts?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not sure they got paid the full amount…more like $300M. Can someone confirm?

  3. Census CL Says:

    It actually cost the taxpayers much more. Many of the current issues plaguing the 2010 count can be traced to the failure of the plan to use the HHCs. As the GAO pointed out it is not entirely Harris’ fault, but scrapping the entire plan for the 2010 count, 6 months before the first preliminary census operations, has resulted in billions more in expense and a count that is skirting the edge of failure.

  4. pranita veeria Says:

    OH BOY……another “skewd” blog article by SRM on My Two Census….shame on you Mr Morse. You going to get blamed for this one too ??? LOL

  5. Maiasaura Says:

    Absolutely it cost us (the taxpayers) much more than what we paid the dim bulbs at Harris Corp. Having to do the EQs by hand with paper and pencil, scanning them in, sometimes losing them, and not being able to produce timely reports on what has been input has cost me hours and hours as a crew leader.


  6. anonymous Says:

    ABSOLUTELY TRUE ARTICLE! Harris Corporation HTC together with Sprint cell and data lines – way to go Census Bureau! Waste of taxpayer money and I’m a taxpayer!

  7. Enumerate this Says:

    I don’t blame Harris as much as I do the project managers at the census who slept for years while signing the checks. As others noted, the 11th-hour decision to abandon the computers added tons of expense and forced the census to improvise many parts of NRFU. I would speculate — though I don’t have any first-hand knowledge — that this has contributed to processing bottlenecks for mail-ins and for NRFU.

  8. Enumerate this Says:

    @pranita veeria: The hand-held computers are a travesty. This is not a trivial or penny-ante issue. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on a system that was ultimately junked.

    I — and many others — would love to know what happened to all those pieces of shit. I expect them to show up on the federal auction site for pennies on the dollar. In 2009, during the address listing operation, we had to sign for those like our lives depended on it.

  9. Samantha Jackson Says:

    Enumerate this, I can’t say for certain, but I heard the HHC’s were destroyed. It’s true that you signed your life away for each HHC in your posession. It’s also true that when you checked them in to the LCO they felt no obligation to sign for custody of them when they received them from the CL or courier. I asked for a receipt when checking in multiple HHC’s I’d signed my life away for and they looked at me like I was whack. I did not leave without the receipt.

  10. pranita veeria Says:

    @enumerator this NO argument here….especially when a third of the units we used were defective and had to returned. Of course, the IT’s that were hired at the NY region couldn’t put in an ink cartridge in the office copier, but then again, no surprise LOL

  11. BTK census worker Says:

    Yes of course the HHC were destoyed They had PII and title 13 information on them. It’s not that Harris was a total and complete failure its that they got their full award money to boot. Its no guts no balls Census execs once again that haven’t the fortitude to stand up to their COTR and CO responsibilities. Spineless small minded timid little people………..our leaders at work.

    Once again it is not government waste it is private sector waste as it usually is. Where do you idiots think this government money goes? Corporate America is where Wake Up

  12. Johnny Says:

    Moere like, “Key White House staffer admits Harris Corp. f***ed the American people.”

  13. Enumerate this Says:

    @BTK census worker: I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not when you write that the HHCs had “PII and title 13 information on them.” You understand that the data was on SD cards inserted into the HHCs, right? Take out the SD card and you take out the PII.

    The disposition of these crazy expensive devices — whether in the landfill or at resale — would make a great story for a legitimate news outlet.

  14. insidescoop Says:

    I have always questioned why the HHs were not used for reporting payroll for the rest of the operations. They worked very well for this during Address Canvasing, and it seems that even if they could have been used for that small portion of all the future operations it would have eliminated a lot of paper, delays and personnel costs.

    Hundreds of D-308s have to be processed daily at the LCOs, which requires additional staff in the office. The paper time sheets come in late, there are often errors that have resulted in job loses, and the focus is taken off the job at hand in order to make sure the enumerators’ time sheets are correct.

    So the HHs couldn’t be used for the entire purpose that they were intended for, but why couldn’t they have been used for a purpose where they had obviously worked well.

  15. GS-X Says:

    The Inspector General recommended re-use of the HHCs for some functions in NRFU.
    Don’t think the Census Bureau ever explained why they refused to.

  16. BTK census worker Says:

    ENUMERATE THIS Not being sarcastic residual information in the core bios or the HHCs is what I am talking about. Unless they found a method of 100% surety that all residual information is removed the only recourse is destruction…….As for the rest and the complete and total incompetence of Harris Corp, I coundn’t be more serious.

  17. OOSXX Says:

    When working Ad Can in 2009 in the office we were told by our Regional office that when the HHCs were shipped back that the HHCs and SD cards were to be destroyed and IT went through the process of “wiping” the memory on the HHCs and cards. But as BTK census worker says there is probably information still floating inside the memory as it was an electronic wipe instead of a degaussing or “strong magnet” wipe. As for the cost overruns and incompetence both Harris and the Bureau share equal blame. I read the entire OIG report last year, and Harris overran the cost and voted themselves hefty bonuses for their work (Yes Harris determined Harris’ bonus until the last bonus was determined by a committee of Harris and the Bureau.) The Bureau never gave Harris clear direction on what or how they wanted the HHCs to work. Actually in Bureau tradition they gave Harris directions, then changed them, then changed them back, then never gave them a clear answer to many questions, very familiar to anyone who worked for the Bureau for any length of time.