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.

Posts Tagged ‘cost’

NextGov: Census Director Robert M. Groves says computer problems are fixed

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

For weeks, we have reported on the serious PBOCS (paper-based operations control system) computer, tech, and software failures that have occurred in Washington and at local census offices throughout the country. According to NextGov, the problems are all solved:

By Dawn Lim 05/11/2010

The top Census Bureau executive said on Tuesday that the agency has fixed glitches that caused major outages in a computer system that manages information collected by census takers.

Census Director Robert Groves told Nextgov that the bureau enlisted developers to work with agency staff to solve the problem.

The problems occurred in the paper-based operations control system and could drive up costs beyond the $15 billion the bureau estimates it will cost to conduct the 2010 decennial count, according to a report from the Commerce Department’s inspector general that was released last week.

“In the past four days there have been dramatic improvements,” Groves said.

He did not disclose how much the repairs cost but added that investments in the system “cost a lot less money than it would have cost if that system didn’t work.”

He added, “The problem with the system created a backlog of completed work being checked in. The impact of these problems will be on the backend processing.”

The cost of sending out part-time workers to travel door to door to visit households that failed to complete and send back a census form remains at about $85 million for each percentage point of households that did not mail back a form, he said. That works out to about $2.38 billion because 28 percent of households did not mail back their forms by the April 27 due date.

On other topics, Groves said the next decennial census should offer an online option, which Congress has pushed the bureau to consider for years. “I can’t conceive 2020 without it,” he said. But he added that the bureau should proceed cautiously as it weighs procurement options because “nobody knows what the 2020 Internet will look like.”

“There are pressures in DC to lock into [software] designs very early and say how much you are going to spend on the 2020 [census] before you know what you’re going to do,” he said. “These pressures have to be managed carefully.”

Groves supported the Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to make the job of the Census director a five-year, term-limited position to promote continuity across administrations and alleviate the fears of partisanship in the bureau.

Groves said it was problematic that so many census directors had been appointed in years ending with a nine – the year before the bureau began one of its largest undertaking, the decennial count. “To say that’s a good way to run this place, you must believe that the place is better off without a director,” he said.

Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post analyzes yesterday’s report from the Inspector General

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Thanks to Ed for  the following:

Frequent glitches in the computer system built to manage the 2010 Census could jeopardize its accuracy and drive up costs beyond its $15 billion price tag, according to a new watchdog report.

The findings by the Commerce Department’s inspector general come as roughly 600,000 census takers fan out nationwide to visit about 48 million addresses where nobody mailed back a census form.

The quarterly progress report found that problems persist with the agency’s paper-based operations-control system, a computer program developed to manage data collected by census takers. Several local Census Bureau offices are experiencing outages of several hours to entire days, the report said.

Those delays contributed to $1.6 million in clerical overtime costs in the first quarter, and the cost will probably rise in the next two months as census takers complete their work, the report said.

Because of computer delays, local census offices also could misplace completed paper questionnaires that are waiting to be processed.

“Questionnaires can be misplaced, for example, by storing them with questionnaires that have already been checked in,” the report said. If those forms are not processed, “the persons identified in the questionnaires may not be counted.”

The report reinforces concerns raised last week by the Government Accountability Office during a congressional hearing on census operations.

The Census Bureau developed the computer system in 2008 after scrapping plans to use handheld computers built for the agency. The decision left little time to develop the software, and officials have since said the system probably poses the most risk to census operations.

“As we have publicly disclosed to Congress, our oversight agencies and the press, the operational control system is not optimal, and remains a risk,” Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said in an e-mail. “However we do not foresee cost overruns of the type speculated upon in this report.”

Census Director Robert M. Groves has vowed to keep census operations under budget in hopes of returning funds to the Treasury. But he acknowledged potential operational issues this week in a blog post written to his 600,000 new hires.

“Nothing as large as the decennial census can be trouble-free,” Groves said. “Despite the years of development, things will go wrong.”

Belated Earth Day Special: The Census Bureau Waste Continues (with hard evidence attached)

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Last week, I planned to publish this piece, but the data from a New York area census office didn’t come in until yesterday…Check it out:

Here’s the hard evidence:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

It seems like the Census didn’t know April 22nd was Earth Day. In honor of it the printers ran non stop from morning to midnight in 494 offices across the nation printing out all the address listing pages and assignment preparation for Non Response Followup.

Cost to print NRFU Address Listing Pages of every housing unit in the United States single sided and then ship it to the National Processing Center Fed Ex Priority Overnight

Cost to print out hundreds upon thousands of maps single sided only to not even be looked at

Cost to print all the training materials on high quality printer quality paper

Cost to print all the glossy recruiting brochures, partnership posters only for them to be unopened and thrown out by the palette like this everyday (see pictures below)

–  Some food for thought. These boxes are filled with 500 brochures a piece and has been happening everyday for months and in all 494 offices everyday –

Cost to print all the Be Counted Questionnaires which were all taken back from the Be Counted and Questionnaire Assistance Centers to be thrown away even though New York City wanted to extend the program by 30 days and some to count the estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants.(see attached disposal list)

Cost to print all the GQV Questionnaires which we still have two palettes left. (see attached disposal list) And that is just one of the forms on the attached list to throw out…Here we go:

10-02 DISPOSITION OF 2010 GQAV MATERIALS (1)

10-10 DISPOSITION OF 2010 QAC MATERIALS

Photos of materials on their way to be destroyed/recycled:



Groves worried about cost overruns in 2010 census

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

H/t to Hope Yen of the AP:

WASHINGTON — The head of the Census Bureau on Wednesday expressed concern about cost overruns in preparations for next year’s high-stakes count, saying he was taking steps to help prevent the expenses from ballooning further.

Appearing before a House panel, Robert Groves said poor planning had resulted in added costs in the address canvassing operation that were $88 million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent.

Groves said the agency had made some faulty assumptions in how quickly it could get work done. The agency was now re-evaluating budget estimates for the entire census operation, which is projected to cost roughly $15 billion.

“Those budget overruns are intolerable,” he told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee.