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.

Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

And the Census Bureau is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

http://www.census.gov/… just like the rest of the US government…

 

BREAKING: Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves resigns to become Provost of Georgetown University

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

It’s been a good few years for Robert M. Groves at the Census Bureau, but news broke earlier today that the man who may have saved the 2010 Census (and most likely eliminated much of the waste and typical bureaucracy) is moving on to become the Provost of Georgetown University.

Now the question is: Who will replace Dr. Groves?

The Washington Post reports:

Robert M. Groves ,who oversaw the 2010 Census, is stepping down from the Census Bureau to become Georgetown University’s next provost.

His resignation, just three years after he left the University of Michigan to head the census, becomes effective in August.

“I’m an academic at heart,” Groves said in a telephone interview Tuesday, explaining his decision to leave the Census Bureau. “This was the kind of position that’s kind of hard to pass up.”

When Groves arrived at the Census Bureau in 2009, many were predicting the 2010 count was headed for failure, in large part because of the shrinking number of Americans who are willing to answer survey questions and concern about technological problems with handheld computers that were scrapped just before the count.

“The wonderful team of career folks here that were assembled way before I got here really proved that to be false,” Groves said.

Groves, who was nominated by President Obama, had developed a national reputation for the methodology of conducting surveys. He had previously been a professor at the University of Michigan and director of its Survey Research Center.

“I look forward to working with Georgetown’s world-class faculty and students to build the Georgetown of the future, one that fulfills all their aspirations,” Groves said in a statement released by the university. “I look forward to meeting my new colleagues, seeking their wisdom and getting to work.”

Senator Tom Carper’s office sent out the following press release:

The news of Dr. Groves’ decision to leave his post of Census Bureau Director later this year is bittersweet.  On the one hand, I am happy to see Dr. Groves pursue this great professional opportunity with Georgetown University; on the other hand, his tremendous work ethic and courageous leadership guided the Census Bureau through some very challenging times and he will certainly be missed.

 

When Dr. Groves came on board in 2009, the Census Bureau faced many operational and management challenges that threatened the success of the 2010 Census. Dr. Groves confronted these challenges head on and through his impressive skill set and background in issues related to the Census and to statistics, he helped right the ship, ensuring the successful completion of the 2010 Decennial Census. Three years after his arrival, Dr. Groves definitely leaves the Census Bureau and the Census in better shape than when he found it. In fact, he was just what the doctor ordered for the agency.

Under Dr. Groves’ leadership, and with the support of President Obama, the Census Bureau realigned its national field office structure and implemented key management reforms, reducing Census Bureau costs by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014. His ability to identify and implement ways to achieve greater efficiencies and significant cost-savings within the programs and operations of the Census Bureau ensures that the Census fulfills its important Constitutional obligations while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. We need more leaders like Dr. Groves in government today.

 

While I respect that Dr. Groves needs to do what is best for his career and his family, his departure is certainly a loss for the Census Bureau and the Administration. I appreciate Dr. Groves’ commitment to public service and his willingness to help the Bureau navigate through such challenging times. Dr. Groves leaves some very big shoes to fill but fortunately, under his leadership, the Bureau is poised to continue to make progress and improve its management of its critical decennial duty.”

 

New York’s redistricting process is going very, very, slowly…

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Here’s a piece from The New York Times that explains why:

Each state must redraw its political maps to reflect the 2010 census, but New York, which has approved neither legislative nor Congressional districts for this year’s elections, is among the last to comply. Redistricting has become increasingly urgent because of the calendar; the state’s Congressional primary is scheduled to be on June 26, and its legislative primary on Sept. 11.

Pennsylvania to use the 2000 Census for redistricting: WHY?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Pennsylvanians are apparently living like its 1999. Here’s what the Courthouse News Service had to say:

In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said a 2011 redistricting plan establishing new districts based on fresh data from the 2010 census was unconstitutional.

That plan, proposed by the state’s five-person Legislative Reapportionment Commission, failed to adequately balance constitutional requirements that districts be compact, contiguous and roughly equal in population.

Of particular concern to the high court was a fourth requirement: that voting districts do not excessively fracture political subdivisions.

The state constitution says voting districts should divide counties, wards and municipalities only when absolutely necessary.

A group of 20 state senators who appealed the 2011 plan offered an alternative redistricting plan that, the group said, does a better job balancing these requirements, particularly when it comes to respecting the integrity of subdivisions.

In a 4-3 decision last month, the court called that plan “powerful evidence” that the commission could have done a better job balancing these factors, and remanded the plan to the commission for revision.

While the revisions are pending, the court directed Pennsylvania to govern its upcoming April 24 primary election with the 2001 redistricting plan, based on census data from 2000.

That directive prompted three federal lawsuits in late January and early February.

The plaintiffs – which include the majority leaders of the state Senate and House, the House speaker, and a Latino rights group – said it would be unconstitutional to use the old districts.

Detroit News: Bribery probe targets former U.S. Census official (Dwight Dean)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Since June 1, 2010, I have reported about problems in the Detroit office of the US Census Bureau involving Dwight Dean, who was booted from his once-stable perch in the Census Bureau hierarchy in August 2010. Today, I give a hearty thank you to Robert Snell and the Detroit News who have reported that the “former top-ranking U.S. Census Bureau official in Michigan and two other states is being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes and awarding an $857,000 no-bid contract.” MyTwoCensus.com urges federal, state, and local investigators to also investigate the many other Dwight Dean cronies who were very likely conspirators in his activities. Furthermore, as other MyTwoCensus.com pieces demonstrate, at the Detroit office of the Census Bureau, it oftentimes appeared like the inmates were running the asylum.

(Click here for a list of MyTwoCensus pieces involving the Detroit office that name many of the individuals I am referring to.)

Here’s the Detroit News piece (in full HERE):

A search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in federal court indicates that in November 2010 a grand jury was investigating Plymouth resident Dwight Dean. He was the highest-ranking Census official in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia until he was abruptly, and inexplicably, replaced in August 2010. No criminal charges have been filed.

This investigation involves a federal official in Detroit, which has been the focus of several ongoing corruption investigations involving City Hall and two Detroit pension funds.

Federal investigators did not put a value on the alleged bribes, which involve dinners at expensive restaurants and what appear to be free tickets to the North American International Auto Show charity preview.

The Detroit businessman named in the search warrant, who admitted giving Dean auto show tickets and paying for dinners, denied doing anything wrong.

“That’s not bribery,” Motor City International President Louis James told The News. “That’s a business meeting.”

Dean had served as Census regional director since 1987 and oversaw a crucial headcount last year that ended with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing vowing to appeal figures that showed a steep population drop. The census is used to determine the amount of federal funding cities receive.

Dean, 64, did not return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday.

The search warrants were executed a year ago and the current status of the investigation was unclear Wednesday.

There is no indication the allegations affected the 2010 census count.

“Over 39,000 people hired locally in the Detroit region worked on the 2010 census. At all times, we conducted extensive quality assessments of operations and census results,” Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook said.”The assessments of the Detroit region are consistent and within the norms of what we found nationally.”

Federal agents raided Dean’s offices in Detroit one year ago, searching for evidence he accepted gifts, loans or money between August 2008 and August 2010, according to the search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday.

 

I would like to think that MyTwoCensus.com had some role in initiating these reforms…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

After two years of reporting on waste at the US Census Bureau, I was very happy to receive the following public relations announcement from the Census Bureau today. However, I do hope that the federal government will find new employment for those people who lose their jobs as a result of this organizational shakeup:

As a valued stakeholder to the Census Bureau, we want to inform you about
some key changes we are making in order to be a prudent steward of the taxpayers’
money and fulfill our mission to provide the country important statistical information.
Today, we are announcing a realignment of our national field office structure and
management reforms designed to keep pace with modern survey collection methods
worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 – $18 million annually beginning in
2014.

Over the next 18 months we will transition to a new supervisory structure to
manage some almost 7,000 professional interviewers. The changes will result in
permanently closing six of our 12 Regional Offices and a reduction of the national field
workforce of about 115-130 positions. Most of the reductions will happen through
attrition, early retirements, or transfers to vacant jobs at Census headquarters or
elsewhere.

The six Regional Offices that will close are Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit,
Kansas City and Seattle. The six Regional Offices that will remain open are Atlanta,
Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

Advances in technology have allowed survey organizations to provide better
tools to their field interviewers and move to a leaner management structure. More
“virtualization” of supervision using more timely management information can yield both
cost and quality advantages. We want to keep pace with these innovations.

Our professional field interviewers are the front line of producing the nation’s vital
statistics about our economy, our communities, and our households. We owe it to the
nation to constantly improve our processes and become more efficient.

More than 20 percent of the interview workload involves conducting surveys for
other federal statistical agencies. Our customers are confronting tighter fiscal budgets
as well, and have challenged us to improve our systems. Indeed, the nation depends
upon us to slow the cost inflation in our survey work if we are to maintain the highest
quality statistics.

As we go through this transition over the next 18 months, our Regional Office
employees who are affected by this realignment are our first priority.

The closing of six Regional Offices was a difficult decision and one that will
produce disruption and pain in the lives of our colleagues in those offices. We are
committed to employ all methods legally possible to reduce the negative impact of this
change on our affected employees.

2010 Census news roundup…

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hi everyone, it’s been a long time. Unfortunately, life has made it such that MyTwoCensus.com isn’t my #1 priority at this moment, but that doesn’t mean that the impact of the 2010 Census is any less pertinent. In fact, there has been tons of news lately about the 2010 Census. Some key stories that I’ve been following:

1.  As I would have predicted, specifically in the case of New York, where I identified myriad problems with 2010 Census operations, the city is disputing its 2010 Census numbers as it will likely be missing out on a ton of federal funding ($3,000 per resident not counted per year). Here’s some info.

2. Despite its inflated advertising budget (don’t forget that bomb of a Super Bowl ad), the Census Bureau’s 2010 Census ad campaign is winning awards…but again, these are industry awards created by the industry, for the industry, so don’t take them too seriously. When you compare the amount of ad dollars spent in 2000 vs. 2010 to the participation rates, it is clear that 2000 was a better performance proportionally.

3. This shouldn’t be a major shock, but America’s demographics are  CHANGING. While the surge of Hispanics was expected, people didn’t expect the number of Asians in America to be growing so quickly. Here’s some info.

4. Minorities are moving to the suburbs and whites are moving to the cities, reversing trends that started in the post-war era. This is very interesting.

5. The GOP’s (Republican Party) success in the 2010 Elections may translate to redistricting success. Here’s a look at how the GOP won big in the 2010 Census.

On a more positive note, I have become quite interested in genealogy in recent months and I can tell you that US Census records have been invaluable in tracing my family’s history. In this sense, I am quite happy and proud that my family participated in the 2010 Census, because maybe, long after I’m gone, a future generation will be able to access information and learn about life in the year 2010.

Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Editor’s note: I’m currently in London where the UK’s 2011 Census is now underway. A 2011 UK Census form came in the mail a few days ago and I have also seen numerous billboards around town telling residents that they can complete the 2011 Census online. If only America would have been able to get its act together for an online 2010 Census…Of course, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will state at this hearing that he is exploring options for how to put the 2020 Census online. This is a complete no-brainer…

***Media Advisory***

HEARING: “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″

WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, will hold a hearing titled “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″ on Wednesday, April 6, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. in room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the hearing is to identify lessons learned from the 2010 Census, identify technological advances that can be used to improve data quality and reexamine areas that could help produce a more cost-effective 2020 Census. The hearing will also assess recent developments with the American Community Survey, an ongoing statistical survey that produces demographic information.

“Planning for the 2020 Census is already underway, so it is time for us to start considering how we can improve upon the 2010 Census,” said Sen. Carper. “I’m particularly interested to learn about how existing technology can be incorporated into the 2020 Census. As we embark upon a decade’s worth of extensive research and preparation, we will begin with this hearing by identifying a few of the initiatives that show promise for producing an accurate and cost-effective 2020 Census.”

For more information or to watch a live stream of Sen. Carper’s hearing, please click HERE.

WHAT:

U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security Hearing “Census: Learning Lessons from 2010, Planning for 2020″

WHEN:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

1:30 p.m.

WHERE:

342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C.

WITNESSES:

Panel I:

The Honorable Robert Groves

Director

U.S. Census Bureau

U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Todd Zinser

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Commerce

Mr. Robert Goldenkoff

Director, Strategic Issues

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Panel II:

Mr. Daniel Castro

Senior Analyst

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Dr. Thomas Cook, Ph. D.

Committee on National Statistics

The National Academies

Mr. Arturo Vargas

Executive Director

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

Sorry for the radio silence…we’re back.

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

An inside source tells us the people named in this MyTwoCensus piece are still employed by the Census Bureau! (A check on Census.gov confirmed this.)

The latest from the Inspector General’s office…

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

We failed to post a piece from the Inspector General about the Census Bureau’s “partnership” programs that MyTwoCensus criticized heavily for its lax spending procedures. Check out the November 18, 2010 report HERE.

And if you turn to page 20 of this Inspector General’s office document that was released on December 20, 2010,  you will find an update on recommendations being made for the 2020 Census.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Sens. Carper, Coburn Hail Senate Passage of Bipartisan Census Reform Bill

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

FOR RELEASE: Dec. 9, 2010

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the census, hailed the unanimous Senate passage of legislation that brings much needed stability of leadership and organizational reform to the Census Bureau, the nation’s largest general-purpose statistical agency. The Census Oversight and Management Act of 2010, co-authored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), is crafted to improve Census management challenges which arise from the fact the Census operates on a constitutionally mandated ten-year cycle while Presidential administrations which oversee management of the Census operate on a four-year cycle. The bill strengthens Congressional oversight of the Census to help prevent operational problems that have emerged on the eve of the censuses in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010, in part from a lack of steady leadership and management due to changes in Presidential administrations.

The Census Oversight, Efficiency and Management Reform Act would ensure that the Census Bureau enjoys the independence of governance that will best enable it to perform its essential function in the following ways:

o   Makes the Director of the Census Bureau a presidential term appointment of five years, with the 10-year decennial cycle split into two, five-year phases – planning and operational, creating continuity across administrations.

o   Gives the Director the independence to report directly to the Secretary of Commerce without being required to report through any other official at the Commerce Department.

o   Requires the Director to submit to Congress a comprehensive annual report on the next decennial census, with a description of the Bureau’s performance standards and a risk-assessment of each significant decennial operation.

o   Requires the Bureau to test, develop, and implement an option for internet response to the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey.

“This bill is an important step forward in our effort to modernize and improve the Census process,” said Sen. Carper. “By working with our colleagues across the aisle, we were able to enact several common sense reforms that will strengthen the Census Bureau and enhance our ability to conduct a thorough, cost effective, and accurate Census.  I’d like to thank my colleagues for passing this bill and look forward to seeing a stronger, improved Census in 2020 and beyond.”

“In an age where the internet has become a primary form of communication and administration, getting the Census online by 2020 is a top priority. Although this is only the first step, it helps lay the groundwork for conducting cost-effective oversight that will give Congress and the Census Director the ability to better manage this Constitutional responsibility,” said Sen. Coburn, M.D.

###

Help a reporter out…Are you unemployed after working for the 2010 Census?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I know that many of the readers of MyTwoCensus.com are former 2010 Census employees who are now out of work. Please send an e-mail to morse (at) mytwocensus.com with your contact information if you are still looking for work and willing to speak to a reporter for a national newspaper about this.

Thanks!

Stephen

Just in time for Christmas: Official 2010 Census gear on EBay…again!

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Months ago, I wrote how 2010 Census enumerator bags were popping up on EBay. All of these bags should have been returned when operations were completed. But history tends to repeat itself. A savvy MyTwoCensus reader sent over the following:

Here’s the link to the auction. (Note, the 2010 Census bag is RARE!)

*Note: Last time this happened, the Census Bureau likely purchased the bags from EBay to quiet my grumbling, as the materials were purchased soon after my post and I was told by the Census Bureau PR folks “We don’t see anything on EBay.”Just in case this happens again, here are some lovely screenshots:



Census Bureau to Host Webinar on 2010 Demographic Analysis

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

What:    The Census Bureau will hold a webinar prior to the Dec. 6 release
of the 2010 Demographic Analysis estimates of the national
population by age, sex and race. The webinar will help explain the
methodology behind demographic analysis, why it is conducted and
how it relates to 2010 Census numbers and other U.S. population
figures being released by the Census Bureau. Although not 2010
Census counts, these estimates provide one way of measuring the
size of the U.S. population and will be used to analyze 2010
Census results.

The webinar will consist of a simultaneous audio conference and
online presentation. Reporters will be able to ask questions
following the online presentation.

Date:    Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010

Time:    1:15-2 p.m. EST

Who:     Jason Devine, chief, Methodology, Research and Development Branch,
Estimates and Projections, Population Division

Conference details: Audio conference access information —
Toll free number: 888-324-9312
Participant passcode: CENSUS
Questions and answers are limited to media

Online presentation access information —
Please log in early, as some setup is required.
URL: https://www.mymeetings.com/nc/join/
Conference number: PW9500032
Audience passcode: CENSUS

Who estimated the 2010 Census supplies and printed materials contract? (RIP dead trees!)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
The following article comes from a former 2010 Census manager:
A month ago, MyTwoCensus posted a picture of hundreds of boxes of materials that were being recycled. Although no one will argue that recycling is good for the environment, the truth is none of this should of been printed in the first place. The Census Bureau estimate of the census forms they needed were off completely wrong and here’s why:
The company contracted to print the enumerator questionnaires (D1-E) printed over 200 million questionnaires. However the NRFU workload was only estimated to be 47 million households. Critics could argue that the NRFU workload was unknown before the printing contract was awarded however the American Community Survey estimate of 2008 only showed 128 million households in the United States. If America had a zero percent response rate they would still require only 128 million questionnaires, not the 200 million that was printed. There were 15 million enumerator supplemental questionnaires (D-1E SUPP) printed which field staff used when there were six or more household members. Information on how many households have six or more people was unavailable however only 23.4% of American households have 4 or more members. Any statistician can say with confidence that households with six or more members is negligible.
The errors in estimate cascaded to other printed materials such as information sheets and notice of visits also being overprinted. For example even though census procedures specifically allowed only three personal visits; in some regions to increase accuracy and avoid going to a proxy some enumerators made more than three visits. However Stephen Morse’s picture clearly shows there are still hundreds of boxes of these forms unused. Another example were the forms for eligibility employment verification (I-9) forms. The contract for the I-9 forms was 20 million, yet the census only ended up hiring about 600,000 employees across the nation and estimates show only a couple of million applicants.
None of this news should be surprising, Census models are completely inadequate. In 2009 during address canvassing they threw away millions of taxpayers’ dollars on training employees for which there was little or no work available. Each office returned palettes and palettes of office supplies such as pens, pencils, paper clips and rubber bands. The companies contracted to provide these were the ones who received the money.
If Census managers are infuriated over this picture perhaps they should be funneling their energy towards ensuring that their money is spent on technology that actually works and the proper amount of printing. Surely printing 200 million questionnaires for just 48 million households assuming assignment prep error is a little overkill.

Transcript of Census Bureau’s latest operational press briefing

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Unfortunately, at the last minute, other work prevented me from calling in to the 2010 Census press briefing. Nonetheless, here is the transcript of the event. These are some highlights that I have selected…(Remember, these people are professionals who know how to lie with statistics!):

1. We have just completed all of the interviewing for this decade’s post enumeration survey which we call the Census Coverage Measurement Operation. In a nutshell, things went well. Let me give you some statistics on that. We had a big interviewing force, as we did in the census itself. We had re-interviews of their work to check whether they were following training guidelines. 99.7 percent of those interviewers passed that reinterviewing check. Another way of saying that, we only had 18 interviewers that failed that check.

2. On the other hand, and a negative signal, is in the year 2000 about 0.14 percent of the cases when we finished all of our efforts we still didn’t have a population count on, it was a non-interview case. This time, that 0.14 has risen to 1.54 percent.

3. This year, we’re estimating at this point that about 96.5 percent of the addresses match up to the master address file that we used to mail out all the cases. Last time, in 2000, that 96.5 percent number was 91.4. Similarly, 96 percent of the cases we judge were correctly enumerated. Based on that match, compared to about 89.9 percent in 2000.

4, Let me turn to big operational issues. We had 494 local census offices. We’re closing those down in a very careful manner. We’ve closed more than 59 percent of them at this point. As of this morning, that’s 293. We think we’ll close all of those by November 12. This is not just kind of locking the doors and walking away. We have computer networks in these offices. We have a team that goes in and completely sanitizes the computer, the desktops, the Xerox machines. We want to make sure every trace of confidential information is wiped off these machines before they’re moved out of there.

5. So for those kind of checkbox fields, we failed to read about .1 percent of those in 2000. This time, we failed to read .03 percent.

AOL News: 2010 Census reveals possible undercount

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

MyTwoCensus thanks the astute reader who noticed this article (published 4 days ago) about a 2010 Census undercount (written by Andrea Stone, AOL’s Senior Washington Correspondent) that was then mysteriously removed from the internet by AOL. We’re not sure if this was because of an inaccuracy or some other reason. Nonetheless, here is a saved PDF file that shows the article. What do you think?

Census Bureau will hold press briefing later today…

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Feel free to listen in on the phone!

** CENSUS BUREAU MEDIA ADVISORY **

Census Bureau Director to Provide Update on
Status of 2010 Census Operations

What:       U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves will brief the
media on the status of 2010 Census operations. Groves will discuss
the final 2010 Census mail participation rates and 2020 Census
planning.  The briefing will include a media question-and-answer
session.

When:    Monday, Nov. 1, 2 to 3 p.m. (EDT)

Who:         Robert M. Groves, director, U.S. Census Bureau

Where:   National Press Club, 13th floor
Holeman Lounge
529 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20045

Members of the media may also participate by telephone. (Please dial-in
early to allow time for the operator to place you in the call.)

Dial-in number:  888-603-8938
Passcode:  2010 CENSUS

Online Press Kit:
Event materials will be posted online shortly after the event begins and
can be accessed by clicking on the 2010 Census Operational Press briefing
at <http://2010.census.gov/news/press-kits/operational-press-briefing/>.

Webcast:
There will be a live webcast of the briefing, accessible at
<http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=73902> at 2 p.m. (EDT) on
event day.

Note to America: Your 2010 Census data is being handed over to private citizens

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

The Census Bureau has long touted that it keeps data private and confidential for 70 years after it is gathered. This concept proved to be false as recently as 2004, when the Census Bureau didn’t put up a fight as it turned over information about Arab-Americans to other government agencies.

The Census Bureau also readily hands over data to research centers at universities, both public and private. This is a little-known program that has not been mentioned in the press. While I may personally agree that universities with data access can provide benefits for society, I stand against the Census Bureau handing over this data on the principle that  the American people have not agreed that the Census Bureau can use their data in this way.

Take a look at this recent Census Bureau press release that highlights the 10+ sites around the country where universities have access to your data:

The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in
partnership with the University of Minnesota, has opened a new Research
Data Center (RDC) laboratory on the university’s campus in Minneapolis.

RDCs are Census Bureau facilities where researchers from academia,
federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects receive
restricted access to unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic
microdata files. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau
employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements
for access to confidential data.

“The Minnesota Research Data Center will serve researchers from a broad
range of academic disciplines, with particular strengths in demography and
public health,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “The Minnesota
RDC will contribute not only by providing researchers with assistance in
using the demographic, business and health data but also by developing
improved or new data collections.”

“The research lab is housed in the Minnesota Population Center (MPC),
which has a tradition of collaboration with the Census Bureau and other
statistical agencies. As a world leader in the improvement, dissemination
and analysis of census data, MPC is equipped to make unique contributions
to the RDC program,” Groves said.

Before gaining access to the information at RDCs, researchers must
submit proposals to the RDC and the Census Bureau for approval. The review
process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit
and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures,
strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of
these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full
background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the
confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to
significant financial and legal penalties.

The Minnesota Census Research Data Center joins similar centers that
have been established in Boston; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles; Washington;
Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Durham, N.C. The
center at Berkeley has a branch at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., while the center at Durham has recently opened a branch at Research
Triangle Park, N.C. An additional center is scheduled to open at a site in
Atlanta in spring 2011.

BS Alert: PBOCS system creators claim that the 2010 Census operations were successful…Lies, lies, and more lies!

Monday, October 25th, 2010

To any investors out there, this is as much of a bull-shit alert as I can possibly give you. As MyTwoCensus has repeatedly noted, and the Census Bureau has repeatedly acknowledged, the PBOCS systems used during 2010 Census operations were complete failures that created problems resulting in severely delayed operations (thousands of workers sat around waiting for assignments) and mismanaged data (2010 Census forms had to be manually imported at a snail’s pace, and who knows how many of these never made it into the system at all…). But the PR teams below state otherwise:

Rally helps ICS deliver mandated requirements 50% faster using 1/3 staff of previous efforts and demonstrates best practices for improving U.S. government’s outsourced IT operations

WASHINGTON and BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Rally®, the leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM), and ICS, a proven 8(a) information technology contractor, today announced that Rally’s Agile ALM platform played a central role in the success of ICS’s work in support of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 decennial census.

Rally Unlimited Edition enabled the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team to deliver the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software over 50% faster than delivery times of the 2000 or the 1990 census software, with just 1/3 of the staff. By tracking its software development process with Rally, ICS not only delivered software requirements and met immovable deadlines, but exceeded expectations by delivering an additional software module.

“The efficiencies we realized with Rally are a perfect example of the change being driven within the government to improve the performance of IT operations across the board,” said Khurram Shah, ICS founding partner and chief strategy officer. “The velocity and productivity gains Rally brought to the 2010 Census Agile ICS development team enabled us to deliver applications that processed more data at a much faster rate than during previous Census operations.”

About the United States Census

The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution to gather statistics on the U.S. population. The data collected helps determine the number of seats states have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the 2010 Census, this data also helps communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year.

“Because Census deadlines are mandated by the Constitution, there’s no question that the execution, performance and timing of our software development operation was critical,” said Erika Peace, technical project manager at ICS. “Rally provided the right tools at the right time so we could cost-effectively deliver technology more accurately aligned with our client’s business objectives.”

Challenges

Software development requirements are defined by the mandate that decennial U.S. Census figures are based on actual counts of every person dwelling in U.S. residential structures. Delivery dates are immovable, as the Census Bureau is required by law to report the nation’s population and the allotment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for each state by the end of December. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team also had to adapt to changing requirements and unique circumstances, such as the challenges around accurately counting “group quarters,” like college students living in dormitories.

Solution and Results

The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team brought in Agile development practices to deliver 12 key requirements for the Census Bureau’s paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software. By implementing Rally Unlimited Edition to provide the real-time status, progress and quality of the Census Bureau’s software development processes, the Agile ICS team over-delivered ahead of schedule – completing all requirements in just 18 months with just 1/3 of the staff.

“By taking advantage of Rally’s Agile ALM platform, the 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team was able to help the Census Bureau improve the speed and accuracy of the 2010 census-taking process in response to the ever-increasing population of the United States,” said Ryan Martens, Rally’s founder and CTO. “Demonstrating that Agile practices meet federal schedule performance index requirements allows Rally’s Agile ALM platform to align with government projects.”

In order to achieve critical requirements within the allotted timeframe, every incremental build resulted in shippable, working software. The 2010 Census Agile ICS software development team used Rally to meet changing requirements, build incrementally and turn deliverables around quickly. Requirements, acceptance tests and source code changes were tracked in Rally’s Agile ALM platform, giving the team rapid feedback on the status and quality of each build.

Rally’s powerful reporting capabilities were critical for providing data analysis, progress reports and status updates to government officials on a daily basis. Providing real-time visibility to senior government officials was vital for making informed decisions, assessing scope change and tracking team progress to delivery.

While addressing the National Press Club, Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert Groves summed up the importance of the PBOCS software delivered by ICS and how well it was performing when he said, “This software system, called the Paper-Based Operation Control System (PBOCS), performs various functions that are really crucial for the non-response follow-up phase…we’re processing at rates that we never imagined we could process.” (1)

Government Agile Success Tour

Rally is hosting a special edition of its Agile Success Tour on October 21, 2010 in Bedford, MA for those working in Federal contracting environments. This free, interactive half-day seminar is intended for anyone who is adopting or considering adopting Agile development practices for government software projects. Northrop Grumman and Rally Software will discuss real-life Agile implementation stories from the Department of Defense, civilian agencies, and state and local governments.

About ICS

ICS is a certified 8(a), Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) founded in 2003 by seasoned technology professionals.  ICS has proven an innovative designing experience that is client-focused, developing quality solutions in mission critical environments in the public and private sector.

ICS is comprised of experienced management and technically agile professionals with diverse competencies, creating a collaborative program and project management environment for clients. The size of the organization, coupled with the focused range of services performed, enables the company to rapidly source and retain thoroughly trained, certified professionals with tested, measurable performance and proven experience.

About Rally

Rally is the recognized leader in Agile application lifecycle management (ALM). We are dedicated to helping organizations embrace Agile and Lean development practices that increase the pace of innovation and improve product quality. According to a study by QSM Associates, software-driven companies that rely on Rally’s Agile ALM products and services are 50% faster to market and 25% more productive than industry averages. The company’s experienced services group, including training through Agile University, guides companies through the organizational change required to become innovative, Agile businesses. Rally’s products, including AgileZen, currently support more than 3,000 corporate customers, 76,000 projects and 138,000 users in 60 countries. For more information, visit www.rallydev.com.

(1) Dr. Groves briefing at the National Press Club on June 2nd, 2010; transcript available here.

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