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 ‘PBOCS’

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.

Rally, the Rally logo, Rally Software Development, and AgileZen are trademarks of Rally Software Development Corp. Third-party trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

How to submit inaccurate or incomplete 2010 Census data (and get away with it)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Last week, Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said to Fox News that you can “trust 2010 Census data.” What our director fails to tell us is that the two software applications have operational problems that will ultimately lead to inaccurate data. Just spend a day working in PBOCS, the Paper-Based Operational Control System which processes enumerator questionnaires from the field, or MARCS, the Matching Address Review Coding System which shows a data capture of every questionnaire that was scanned at the Baltimore Data Capture Center and you will see the poor quality of work. Thousands upon thousands of questionnaires are being scanned that show conflicting or incomplete data such as: vacant housing units with a population count, incorrect enumerator IDs, occupied housing units with no demographic information and the list goes on.

During the peak of the non-response follow-up (NRFU) phase of 2010 Census operations (around mid May), the Census switched to a shipping application built off a PeopleSoft/Oracle interface in order to take the load off PBOCS. Although this was a good thought in theory, the application allowed questionnaires to be shipped that were not even checked in PBOCS. In the final closeout days of the operation, PBOCS claimed many questionnaires were not checked in even though enumerators fervently claimed they turned them in. Fortunately some of those were found in MARCS having been received at the data capture center but never scanned for shipping nor checked in. However because there was such a bottleneck sometimes a few weeks between the time they were shipped and scanned; some questionnaires that never showed in MARCS were re-enumerated. Sometimes PBOCS would just revert some cases back to not being checked in. In a mad dash to finish and meet deadlines enumerators submitted second versions of questionnaires with little or less than accurate data replacing what may or may not have been originally submitted. Immediately after offices finished NRFU, headquarters closed the PBOCS to the local census offices to prevent further glitches.

As it has been mentioned time and time again, the Census never made it clear what constituted a completed questionnaire. In such a recession, employees were promised more work if they finished quickly so experienced and resourceful field staff took advantage of the three visit rule sometimes making visits in consecutive days or all in a one day before going to a proxy. Local census offices managers, RCC supervisors and managers developed their own rules which were verbally communicated to field staff. These included guesstimating the population count and allowing enumerators to submit Enumerator Questionnaires (EQs) with little or no demographic information. Since performance was purely based on how many questionnaires get checked in; those who submitted hundreds of forms with nothing on the inside of the questionnaire were rewarded with more work.

On the quality assurance end, the staff attempted to examine the data collected for falsification and poor work quality. However reinterview only has been able to find those who intentionally falsified data. An enumerator can submit inaccurate or incomplete data and practically get away with it.

Most enumerators will be tempted to submit inaccurate data when they cannot gain access to the building, speak to a household member or knowledgeable proxy after repeated visits. The reinterview telephone clerks and field staff have to prove definitively by gaining access to the building or speaking to a respondent who said the interview was never conducted. But in reality the reinterview staff can never access the building, or with large apartment buildings sometimes a proxy is asked about hundreds of units and may not remember if the original interview occurred. Most of these bad data cases have little or no information or wrong information: no names, ages, Hispanic origin, race and sometimes not even a person count. But quality assurance staff have either been told to mark them refusals with an unknown population and check them in.

In the rare instance that the Census Bureaus’s quality assurance (QA) operations do suspect data falsification or inaccuracy, finding the culprit is difficult. There are thousands of questionnaires where the enumerator ID numbers are being read incorrectly at data capture. This invites data falsification in two ways. If a questionnaire is found to be inaccurate or falsified then it is impossible to find the culprit. If quality assurance staff does find an enumerator is submitting falsified or inaccurate work, they can not examine the other questionnaires the enumerator completed because many questionnaires do not have a valid enumerator associated with it.

In the current Vacant/Delete check phase of 2010 Census operations, while the agency covered up their own software problems by closing access to PBOCS, they have also created problems. For hundreds of questionnaires where enumerators clearly marked them vacant or deletes without visiting them LCOs cannot access the system to research who actually submitted this erroneous work.

Most of this is happening now in your local census offices across the country as the re-interview phase winds down. This is because of a huge backlog of EQs that were sent into re-interview, hundreds of outliers, and the slowness of MARCS. This inaccurate data is another smear of shame for the Census Bureau. For Dr. Groves to say that we can trust 2010 Census data is merely a cover-up.

Here are some e-mails sent to 2010 Census managers across the nation that detail the aforementioned problems:

07/18/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: 1- PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
2- Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel on the Evaluate Case screen
3- Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. PW Flags randomly appearing or disappearing on the Select Enumerator screen
As a result of a MaRCS fix, the PW flag may have been working erratically. It has been reported that the PW flag on the Select Enumerator screen may have disappeared from the screen for already worked enumerators or may have appeared in cases for an enumerator the MaRCS clerk had never worked. This was a temporary issue and has been corrected. For those cases that this issue may have happened, please inform the AMQA they would need to remove the PW flag for the cases where the enumerator has not been worked in MaRCS OR asking the QA Clerk to click on the Edit pencil icon for the enumerator they have been working to reactivate the PW flag if it has disappeared.

2. Loss of notes in the LCO Notes panel in the Evaluate Case screen
As a result of the MaRCS performance issues that LCOs are experiencing, some screens are loading slowly. To avoid losing the notes entered in the Evaluate Case screen, the MaRCS clerk needs to wait until the page has fully loaded. A page is fully loaded when the “Please wait for page to respond” message disappears in MaRCS or when the Windows browser loading indicator (it shows as a progressive number of green squares) at the bottom of the browser also disappears. Please also remind the LCOs to enter the notes in the LCO Notes panel before assigning a final outcome on the case and to save these notes often so they are not lost if the MaRCS session times out.

3. Cases with missing person data from the 400,000 pushed cases
NPC noted that a portion of the 400,000 cases pushed for processing have blank person data in the original interview or the reinterview in cases where the unit status (US field in Review Data screen) shows occupied (OCC). Most if not all of these cases will be deferred to the LCOs due to different unit statuses between the original interview and reinterview. An example of this situation might be, the original interview has an unit status of occupied with 3 people living at the housing unit and the roster and demographic information is blank; and the reinterview shows that the housing unit is vacant (thus no roster or demographic information shown).

The MaRCS clerks should investigate these cases as any other case in LCO Review. For these cases, the MaRCS clerks should focus their investigation on the unit status of the housing unit, determining which one might be correct. When the MaRCS clerk determines the correct unit status, then they should turn their investigation on what might have caused the discrepancies in the data and assign an outcome code based on the investigation results.

07/15/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: MaRCS NRFU users account maintenance

ACTION: Delete unused MaRCS accounts by noon, Friday 7/16/2010

MaRCS is experiencing performance issues due to the exceeding the number of users accessing and using the system at the same time. Per our teleconference today, attached below are the tallies by LCO of MaRCS accounts issued to users in the LCO. Please review the number of users in each of the region’s LCOs and delete the accounts that are no longer needed.

IMPORTANT – MaRCS accounts should be used for coding MaRCS cases. Limit or eliminate MaRCS uses for purposes other than coding MaRCS cases. Staff assigned to work MaRCS cases are the only staff allowed to have a MaRCS accounts in the LCOs.

The AMT can delete the unused accounts in the LCO. The RMQA needs to work with the AMQA to identify and delete the MaRCS accounts that are no longer needed. For example, we have noticed multiple AMQA roles for a single LCO. It is preferable to only have 1 AMQA role per LCO, as this is the person that has the responsibility to Hard Fail a case. LCOs may have, in rare cases, more than 1 AMQA role if the AMQA has a backup or if there are other AMQAs working shifts.

The AMT instructions to delete users in MaRCS are in their AMT Manual D-650.1, lesson 6. The RMQA can also ask the LSC to run the D-1311M User Role Report to verify user roles and that unused accounts are deleted.

After the accounts are deleted, the MaRCS contractor will measure system performance and inform us if this resolved the issue. Until further notice, please inform the LCOs to use, at most, 4 accounts per LCO OR use accounts not to go over the number of LCOs times 4 per region, the allowed number of MaRCS users.

07/09/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Start of the processing of 400,000 cases in MaRCS with data capture issues

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

As mentioned in the last RMQA teleconference, MaRCS held from processing about 400,000 cases that had a data capture problem. The data capture problem was in the population count where a scanning error, as an example, might have returned a population count of 74 when the actual count is 4. These cases were not processed because MaRCS was waiting for a continuation form where one was likely not needed.

MaRCS will start processing these forms starting on Monday, July 09, 2010 and should be finishing by the end of the week. These forms will likely be deferred to NPC from computer matching because the population counts will not match. It is expected that NPC will resolve the majority of these cases because as long as the roster and demographic information matches, the NPC clerks will pass the case.

It is not expected that the LCOs will get to code many of these cases. However, if they do get some of these cases, please remind the LCOs to ignore the population counts and, if the roster and demographic information matches, then pass the case. If the roster and demographic information does not match, then the MaRCS clerk needs to conduct an investigation on the case as any other case in LCO Review.

The other issue this should resolve are the cases that may be showing in the D-3421M Completion and Data Capture Report as not being data captured when there is information in PBOCS that the case was worked and shipped. It is expected that as these cases are processed, many cases showing in this report will be removed.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/02/2010

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT:

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

1. Hard Fail Recommendation screen reminders
Some regions have informed us that Hard Fail cases are not showing in the D-831M Hard Fail Report after the AMQA assigns a hard fail code to a case. This is due to the AMQA not entering notes in a timely manner in this screen (MaRCS times out) or exiting the screen before clicking the Save button. Please remind the AMQAs to be prepared to enter the notes and the LCO managers’ decisions prior to coming to this screen. It is suggested the AMQA has the notes ready in a notepad so they can quickly be entered on the screen along with the AMFO/LCOM decisions. The notes for a hard failed enumerator should not be lengthy since all LCO managers are in agreement with the outcome.

Not entering and properly saving these notes in this screen has also affected the D-831M Hard Fail Report. This is a defect that the MaRCS contractor is fixing today. An updated report with these cases should be available early next week. Also, as a result of this defect, D-1282M Transcription Reports were not generated for these hard failed enumerators. The fix to the report will also correct this defect, so LCOs should expect next week D-1282Ms with the completed eligible cases for the hard failed enumerator that needs to be reinterviewed.

2. Applicant ID capture error – new known issue and workaround
There is another known issue where valid applicant IDs and names show in MaRCS cases but the enumerator showing in the case does not work in that LCO. The rest of the data displayed for the case will belong to the LCO and the only inaccurate data is the applicant ID and name of the enumerator in the case. This happens when the applicant ID was incorrectly captured at the data capture center and it happened to match a valid ID from another enumerator in another LCO. The MaRCS clerk needs to review this case as any other and assign a final outcome code based on the case investigation (PASS, SOFT FAIL, DK/NO SUSP, or DK/SUSP).

If the MaRCS clerk reviewing the case is recommending to hard fail the case and the LCO managers agree to hard fail the case, please DO NOT HARD FAIL THIS CASE . Doing this will cause the enumerator outside the LCO being flagged as a Hard Fail enumerator. Have the MaRCS clerk Soft Fail the case. Using the case ID, please look if the LCO can identify the enumerator that actually worked the case in the LCO (or the RMQA can send the case ID to QAB to get that information). Once the correct enumerator is identified for the reviewed case, the AMQA can then Non-RI Fail the enumerator. This will ensure the right enumerator is hard failed and the completed eligible cases for this enumerator are reinterviewed.

No action is required if the reinterviewer name and applicant ID displayed in MaRCS is outside the LCO boundaries. The Reinterview panel information in the Review Case Data screen will belong to the LCO.

3. Handling cases where the Address panel information in the Review Case Data screen is outside the LCO or RCC boundaries
Some regions have said that they have cases from other LCOs or are outside the RCC boundaries. This is a known issue that happens for added housing units during NRFU. This is another data capture issue where the LCO was incorrectly captured for the added housing unit. There is no viable solution to transfer these cases to the appropriate LCO. Please instruct the LCOs to PASS these cases and include in the Notes the reason for the pass is the case is outside the LCO/RCC boundaries.

4. Reminder on handling duplicate D-1282Ms
This is a reminder to the LCOs to ignore the D-1282Ms that are duplicates. There might instances where MaRCS created 2 or more D-1282Ms for the same case ID. Please inform the LCOs to reinterview only one of the cases and to ignore all other possible duplicated D-1282Ms.

5. Update on cases not showing in PBOCS when a D-1282M exists in MaRCS
We got confirmation that MaRCS has passed all information to PBOCS as of 6/29/2010. From now on, the sponsor division will monitor that PBOCS receives the data from MaRCS and will inform QAB when PBOCS did not acknowledge receiving the data. We will inform the regions when the MaRCS cases were not received in PBOCS and provide guidance when this happens.

Also, DOTS staff will send back to the LCOs the Remedy tickets created when the case exists in MaRCS and not in PBOCS. The LCOs will be asked to see if the information is in PBOCS, as we have been given confirmation the information from MaRCS was acknowledge in PBOCS as of 6/20/10.

Unless QAB sends information to the regions that PBOCS did not acknowledge the data, a case not appearing in PBOCS is a PBOCS issue and not a MaRCS issue. Please inform the LCOs to submit the Remedy tickets to PBOCS and not MaRCS.

6. MaRCS clerk observation forms for both UE and NRFU
We have been told that MaRCS observation forms have been sent to NPC along with the NRFU enumerator observation forms. Please ask the LCOs not to send to NPC the MaRCS Observation forms. QAB will soon issue a disposition ops log for these forms and all other forms used in the investigations.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov
07/01/2010 – New ops log for July

ATTENTION : 2010 Census Managers

SUBJECT: Clarification on 6/30/2010 ops log (Selecting additional cases for supplemental reinterview — Urgent Request)

ACTION: Please share the information with the appropriate field staff

Many of the regions have said that some of the cases for this special project cannot be sent to supplemental RI. The RMQAs need to check that the LCOs followed the following steps before sending the case IDs to the QAB branch as invalid case IDs. There are 4 possible reasons these cases cannot be sent to reinterview–the case has an invalid applicant ID, the case does not exist in MaRCS, the case has already been reinterviewed, or the case is ineligible for reinterview. All these scenarios are explained below.

The first step they need to do is check the case exists in MaRCS. This is done by clicking on the Case Search option at the top of the Welcome screen. The person selecting the supplemental case can then check if the case exists by entering the case ID in the Case ID box and ensuring the All Cases radio button is selected. If the case exists, please check that the Enumerator Name column has an enumerator name in it. If it does not, this is a case that has an invalid applicant ID and cannot be sent to RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch. If the case search does not bring a case (the screen is blank for that case), then the case does not exist in MaRCS. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

Also check in this screen if the case has already been sent to RI. The screen will show in the Outcome column the final outcome code assigned to the case. For this case, the RMQA needs to update the spreadsheet to record the results of this case. Please also send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

If the case exists, then the clerk selecting the supplemental cases need to be back at the Welcome screen to start the process of selecting the supplemental cases. At the Welcome screen, they need to click on Select RI Cases at the top (in the Menu bar). This will bring up the Select Supplemental RI Cases screen. The next step is to select the enumerator for the selected case. This is done by clicking on the drop down box labeled Select an Enumerator. It is likely that the first several entries on this drop down box are those cases with invalid IDs. Please ensure the clerk selecting the cases scrolls down the list until the enumerator name is found. When the enumerator name is found on the drop down box, click on it to bring up the cases for that enumerator. The clerk needs to scroll down the list until he/she finds the case. MaRCS will show a certain number of cases per screen, please ensure the clerks goes through all the screens with cases. This is done by clicking on the pagination links at the top right corner of the screen. Once the case/s are found, click on the Select column check box to send the case/s to supplemental RI. Please remind the LCOs not so select a precipitating case in the Enter Case Selection Details screen. The note the clerk can enter there can be “Special project.”

If after the clerk goes through all the screens looking for the case ID and the case is not included for the enumerator, the case then is ineligible for RI. Please send these case IDs to the QAB branch.

We do not know at this point if these cases will be replaced with other cases. We will let the regions know if we get replacement cases for these invalid case IDs.

If you have any questions please contact Hector Merced or Vance Davis at 301-763-8822 or email fld.quality.assurance.branch@census.gov

Must-Read: New York’s 2010 Census nightmare

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The following report comes from a Census Bureau official whose identity has been confirmed but will remain anonymous as she is a current Census Bureau employee:

The five boroughs of New York City and its diversified population of eight million have long eluded demographers and census employees in producing an accurate count. Having worked in three censuses now and living in New York for almost my entire adult life I notice that the socioeconomic spectrum of New Yorkers has widened, making the poor poorer and the rich richer. In the last ten years there is an influx of immigrants; some legal some illegal. It makes what was once a one family home in Queens, Brooklyn and The Bronx a two or even three family home. These people are living in converted basements or the second story of the houses some legal some illegal. On the other end of the spectrum, luxury rentals and condominiums have become even more exclusive with price tags in the millions of dollars. In both cases the immigrants and residents of these upscale housing units and their exclusive real estate management companies have ignored repeated attempts by phone or mail to allow enumeration.  Even in the face of a fine, the management companies are adamant about their policy and would willingly pay the fine rather than to allow enumerators to count their residents. The problem is the Census’ Bureau’s threat of a fine is merely used as a scare tactic. When a real estate mogul calls their bluff the actual fine like many other Census Bureau promises is empty.

As native New Yorkers we anticipated these problems. And sitting through four days of verbatim training where someone read through a book, we knew that it wasn’t as simple as the script made it to be to persuade these respondents about the importance of the census and their participation. As a group we brainstormed and created techniques through trial and error to get those who were non-responsive to fill out our questionnaires. Some of these tactics included: sending another enumerator of a different race or creed after several visits with no contact; leaving blank enumerator questionnaires under their door allowing them the privacy of completing it in their own home. One of us even went as far as sending well dressed suits or female fashion models to coerce participation. But all this takes time and money. All of which with 15 billion price tag the Census Bureau doesn’t have.

With inaccurate workload estimation models and front loading the Census Bureau overrecruited, overhired on many operations in preparation for the final major operation: non-response followup. One of the major costs was the paper based operational control system PBOCS which has been the subject of intense scrutiny by media, Congress and employees because of its inability to check out, check out and ship questionnaires and generate management reports. The managers who are monitoring productivity and costs are trained to believe if the reports don’t show it’s done then it isn’t done. With only erroneous reports to rely on, headquarters and regional offices are using a take no prisoners do whatever it takes attitude to pressure temporary employees to complete the task. PBOCS also moves assignment areas fooling LCO managers and field staff into thinking they have more or less work than they have. And ultimately this may have long term geography problems when the Census is completed and used for congressional redistricting.

Since PBOCS doesn’t work correctly and fails to handle the workload, The Census Bureau runs on a more is better attitude. The solution is hire more employees for manually counting and reviewing enumerator questionnaires when they should have slowed enumerator production. Local Census offices have gone from a simple 9am-5:30pm operation to running three shifts 24 hours a day seven days a week with triple to quadruple what their staffing authorizations originally allowed. This compounded the bottleneck, increased the backlog of questionnaires waiting to be checked in and slowed the re -interview and quality assurance phase. There is overwhelming suspicion of data falsification and false proxies but by the time this is figured out the operation will end and the enumerators already released for lack of work.

Now what was originally touted as the most accurate decennial count ever has quickly turned into a race to meet production goals and wrap up the operation as quickly as possible with procedural changes.  We have enumerators, telephone clerks in the LCO, and enumerators from other LCOs taking interviews ignoring the fact that PBOCS will only let you check it in under an enumerator and that if data falsification is happening it will be difficult to find the culprit. What were originally any six personal and telephone visits is now three visits go to a proxy. What used to be try to get the household member because he knows his own name, sex, age, DOB, Hispanic origin and race and whether he rents or owns has become going to a proxy on a first visit and sometimes writing don’t know on most if not all of those questions. Sadly this actually passes the office review portion and nothing in the enumerator procedures disallows that. If a respondent refuses and a proxy is able to give any of the information no matter how knowledgeable he/she is that doesn’t constitute marking it as a refusal, skewing the accuracy of the data.

The incentives of career census employees at RCC and headquarters are in contradiction with each enumerator who wants our city to be accurately counted. The career census employees’ evaluation of performance is purely based on numbers how many cases are completed with little regard to the demography or difficulty of enumerating the population. Their expectation is that the enumeration of traditionally undercounted minorities of Bedford Stuyvesant be just as quick as the white, upper middle class of Upper West Side of Manhattan. The very same agency whose motto has always been the leading source of data about the nation’s people and economy has become a competition between area managers and local census offices.

The leadership in the local census offices isn’t the strongest either. Those who made hiring decisions in New York RCC had every chance to hire the best managers but instead resorted to nepotism to make decisions. When it was clear these decisions were poor the career census employees terminated LCO managers’ employment to cover it up. But then found another disappointing replacement. In an attempt to bring operations up to speed the Census Bureau flew in managers from Denver into Manhattan and headquarters to Staten Island.

The goal is for enumerators to get as many cases in and clerks process work as quickly as possible doing whatever it takes to get the job done, otherwise there will be a formal written reprimand and termination of their employment. It is the chest beating, gorilla apelike attitude of the managers that will ultimately be the demise of New York City.

Lester Farthing, the Regional Director and his managers of the New York Regional Census Center have no intention of an accurate count in the five boroughs. Instead their goal is to appease headquarters, finish as quickly as possible so that the career census employees will be viewed as productive team players who are not questioning the possible inaccuracy of this count. As one of our area managers will say “it’s a hot mess.” I only hope the mayor of our great city Michael Bloomberg, city census coordinator Stacey Cumberbatch, politicians and congressmen are reading this letter and will intervene because ultimately it is the city that will suffer for the next ten years. They were quick to make public announcements touting the importance of participating in the census by returning the forms. But have yet to do anything to persuade non cooperative households and real estate management companies to allow enumerators in to complete their job. The sad reality is that it may be too little too late.

With the way the census works can any of us ever trust census data again?

Transcript and commentary from Census Bureau Director’s latest press conference

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The transcript is now available on the Census Bureau’s web site. Highlights include the following:

1. On page 12 Direct Robert M. Groves sidesteps a question asked by Carol Morello of The Washington Post inquiring about why Dwight Dean was given the boot.

2. On page 17 he sidesteps a question that claims that there are only two bilingual numerators in the whole New Orleans region.

3. On page 18 he sidesteps giving details about the PBOCS (paper-based operations control system) failures.

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

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

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
centers.”

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 MyTwoCensus.com…)

Daily Sound Off: Contender for Worst Local Census Office

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Today’s Daily Sound Off comes from Georgia:

From a contender to the title of “The Worst LCO in the Nation”

Well, it looks like the U. S. Census finally got the PBOCS software working. The solution, reduce the number of users from 10 to 2. This means it will take 5 times longer to key the volumes of returned enumerator questionnaires that have been stacked into boxes waiting for a clerk to key them.

While we are on the subject of questionnaires I would like to explain the process in our LCO (local census office), Macon Georgia.

!. Enumerators turn in their completed questionnaires to their crew leader who reviews them for completeness and then initials showing his approval. Enumerators are experiencing a large number of irate people that do not want to participate and have discovered it is easier to call the residence vacant of cannot locate than it is to try and get the information. No one likes to be chewed out and in a way I don’t blame them. A large percent of the population don’t trust the Census and wish to be left alone.

Residents are handing the Census envelopes they received in the mail to the enumerator and telling them to leave. These envelopes are not being mailed but are being thrown into boxes. At least if they were mailed, the people might be counted.

2. The crew leader brings them to the office where clerks log the receipt of “X” number of questionnaires.

3. Then they are given to clerks for review of completeness. We have about 30 clerks on three shifts doing this. Those that fail are returned to the crew leader for rework. The return rate is about 50% because Crew leaders are not reviewing, just initialing, and sometime not initialing. What company would pay for this amount of poor performance and then pay more to the same people to do the work again and even worse allow it to continue?

4.  Once the clerk begins keying another 20% of the forms are pulled out to be returned to the crew leader because the clerks did a poor job of their review. Another 20% to 30% of the questionnaires are sent to Data Collection office with incomplete information

5.  Where are the managers and supervisors? What are they doing about it? Well last month, the Area Manager took over the office but after two weeks she could not make a difference even with the assistance of three RT’s so they assigned another area manager who left two RT’s with us and one is acting LCOM (LCO manager) after firing the LCOM.  The acting LCOM can barely speak English and neither knows enough to do anything but contribute to the turmoil. They think the solution is to see how many people they can make miserable by denying them food and drink in their work area and not allowing them to leave except for a two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. They must raise their hand when they need more work or have to go to the bathroom.  Next there is a field operations manager who has 3 office supervisors and 7 field office supervisors to help her. All are poorly trained and most are not supervisor material, The solution is to add two more Field Office Supervisors (both have less than 30 days experience) to supervise the office operations supervisors. To the Census, more is usually the solution not accountability for their actions. The same people that did poor work during Address Canvassing, and Group Quarters are still being paid to make a mess of Non Response Follow Up. These RT’s will not listen to those managers that years of supervisor experience and know how to solve the problem.  We probably will soon have a new set of RT’s and another Area Manager because nothing is improving.

6. Finally there is shipping of the questionnaires. The Census Bureau with their infinite wisdom decided to take some strain off the PBOCS by moving shipping to a DAPPS based program. This seems like a good idea but in doing so removed the checks and balance that PBOCS had which prevented questionnaires from being shipped without being checked-in. Now any questionnaire can be shipped. What a mess we are going to have.

Conclusion:

Management is the source of all problems within the Census; i.e., I should say the lack of management and it starts at the top. The U.S. Census has grown to be a management nightmare and will need serious restructure if it is to survive. All the public relations, TV commercials, nor increased spending can cure the festering sores.

I sense that these problems are common place throughout the nation. With all the problems that have come to light, we are previewing the Death of the Census because the problems will ultimately make 2020 Census impossible. How can the Secretary of Commerce keep a straight face when he presents the results to President Obama on December 31, 2010?

Rumor: PBOCS is down for good…

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

OK, everyone, I am using this board to try to find some answers about the state of PBOCS (paper-based operations control system) across the US. As of this week (yesterday and today), is the PBOCS system working in your area? How have technical glitches harmed 2010 Census NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations? What have you heard from your higher-ups about 2010 Census operations for the coming week? I know it’s like beating a dead horse in that I’ve discussed these issues over and over again, but it seems like in many places the problems have still not been corrected, so let’s get some reports from the ground. Please state your approximate location in the comments section. Thanks!

Census Director Robert M. Groves Lies: The Census Bureau’s software, IT, and computer problems are NOT fixed

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Earlier this week, Dr. Robert M. Groves told NextGov that the Census Bureau’s infamous computer problems with the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) software were fixed. He even went so far as to have a memo, obtained by MyTwoCensus, sent by his underlings to Census Bureau officials throughout the country, relaying this information:

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Update: The technical team is ready to implement the fix for performance issues.  In order to do so, the system will be brought down at 6:45 PM ET.  All users need to log off prior to this time and remain out of the system until further notice.  This process should take approximately two hour and once the system is available, there will be a staggered log-in.  DOTS will send out another message regarding when PBOCS will be available and the staggered log-in schedule.


From:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010/BOC

To:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010/BOC@BOC

Cc:

Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dcurtner@harris.com, Decennial IT Support List, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, DSPO PBO MGMT List, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Regional Directors, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, jlawrenc@harris.com, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

05/13/2010 05:10 PM

Subject:

UPDATE INFORMATION – PBOCS Performance Issues, 5:00 PM ET, 5/13

Sent by:

Rebecca St Martin

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Update: The technical team is still testing the fix for the performance issues.  They hope to have the system available sometime tonight however at this point we do not have a more specific time frame.  DOTS will send out another update at 7:00 PM ET.

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support (DOTS) 2010
Phone: 301-763-2010


From:

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010

To:

Decennial IT Support List, FLD Regional Directors, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List

Cc:

TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, DSPO PBO MGMT List, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, dcurtner@harris.com, jlawrenc@harris.com, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

05/13/2010 04:01 PM

Subject:

UPDATE: INFORMATION – PBOCS Performance Issues, 4:00 PM ET, 5/13

Sent by:

Chad G Nelson

Attention: Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.

Information: The fix for the performance issues currently be experienced is still being tested.  We remain with 6 regions on the system and 6 blocked.  DOTS will send out another update at 5:00 PM ET.

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support (DOTS) 2010
Phone: 301-763-2010

To: Decennial IT Support List, FLD Regional Directors, FLD Deputy Regional Directors List
From: TMO Decennial Operations Technical Support 2010
Sent by: Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC
Date: 05/13/2010 02:15PM
cc: TMO DOTS 2010 Staff List, FLD 2010 Regional Offices List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Karen C Field/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Louis R Avenilla/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Viola L Lewis Willis/AMSD/HQ/BOC@BOC, DSPO PBO MGMT List, fdca_pbams@ics-nett.com, Hilda S Dimmock/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, SJackson@OIG.DOC.GOV, Pamela D Mosley/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Wayne Dustin/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Curtis L Broadway/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Dennis W Stoudt/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Maryann M Chapin/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Alan J Berlinger/DSCMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, dmays@harris.com, dcurtner@harris.com, jlawrenc@harris.com, TicehurstJ@gao.gov, K Evan Moffett/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, mtrocki@OIG.DOC.GOV, Dsouzav@GAO.GOV, Lucia J Chavez/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Ellen W Cafarella/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Bridgette M Hendricks/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Tammi Michelle Archer/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Jacque M Biles/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Brian E McGrath/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Arnold A Jackson/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Robert M Groves/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC
Subject: UPDATE INFORMATION – PBOCS Staggered Log-in. Currently Suspended.


Attention:
Regional Director, Deputy Regional Director, Assistant Regional Census Manager for IT, and Lead Support Coordinators/Representatives.


Information:
Due to log-in issues caused by the number of users trying to come onto the system right now, the staggered log-ins have been suspended.  The six remaining RCCs will not be allowed to log-in until the current backlog has declined.  DOTS will send out a message when the remaining RCCs can log-in.

The remaining RCCs are:

2499 = Detroit

2599 = Chicago

2699 = KC

3199 = Denver

2799 = Seattle

3299 = Los Angeles

If you have any questions/concerns regarding this message, please respond to only DOTS 2010.  Please do not reply to all.

(more…)

Transcript from most recent Census Bureau press conference now available…

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Click HERE to read the transcript and/or watch the video from last Monday’s briefing at the National Press Club. Stay tuned for analysis of the transcript on Monday, particularly focusing on the failures of the paper-based operations control system (PBOCS) that Dr. Groves and reporters have discussed…

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.”

NRFU Operations: Missing binders or other materials in your area?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

There have been numerous complaints on MyTwoCensus blogs about missing binders for NRFU (non-response follow-up) operations. Let’s try to track where this is a problem by writing your stories and locations in the comments section of this post. Thanks! SRM

Dr. Groves calls a software change from two years ago a “late change” in operations strategy. MyTwoCensus says this is nonsense.

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Earlier today, the Associated Press released a short article (below) that discusses the Census Bureau’s repeated paper-based operations control system failures. In response to Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves’ comment that, “the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system” I can simply point to a response I just received from Michael Cook, Chief of the Decennial Media Relations Branch at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office. Cook wrote me, “The change to a paper-based NRFU operation ordered two years ago by then-Commerce Secretary Gutierrez, required us to develop PBOCS in a compressed time-frame.” Now, this makes no sense. TWO YEARS IS NOT A COMPRESSED TIME FRAME. It is a ridiculously long amount of time to use engineers to tweak and test a system to make it perfect. Once again, the Census Bureau’s IT failures are pathetic and unaccepptable in the year 2010.

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Government Accountability Office says a computer system needed to finish the 2010 census may not be up to the job.

GAO Strategic Issues Director Robert Goldenkoff said Friday before a congressional hearing in Los Angeles that the Paper Based Operations Control System hasn’t demonstrated the ability to meet peak requirements of the census as it seeks to count residents who did not return forms by mail.

Census Director Robert Groves says in a statement that the problems stem from a late change from a handheld device system to the paper-based system.

He says the system has worked well so far but that the agency is not out of the woods yet.

The GAO says the Census Bureau is otherwise well-positioned to finish the door-to-door count, which begins Saturday.

Census Bureau IT problems remain unresolved

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Finally, a source other than MyTwoCensus.com has noticed and reported on the multitude of IT failures at the Census Bureau. H/t to Edwin Mora of CNSNews.com for the following piece…but hopefully the mainstream media — not just Conservative media outlets like CNSNews — will start to address these problems:

Census Still Struggling With IT Problems That May Affect Count’s Accuracy
Friday, April 30, 2010
By Edwin Mora


Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. (AP Photo/U of Mich.,Paul Jaronski)
(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Census Bureau is still having problems with its computer system that handles the data for households that did not return a census form. However, the Census Bureau director said the system has successfully printed out the assignments for the enumerators who will conduct in-person interviews with households that did not mail in their forms.

“We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper-based operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “It worked.”

The Census director made the comments at a press briefing on the Census participation rate, which took place at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.

Groves said the Bureau is not fond of its paper-based operation control system (PBOCS), which is used to manage the non-response follow-up (NRFU). The NRFU, set to begin May 1, is the Census’ largest operation and involves census workers personally interviewing millions of people nationwide who did not respond to the mailed Census questionnaire.

“Slightly more than 72 percent of U.S. households believed to be occupied mailed back their 2010 Census forms, the same rate that was achieved in 2000,” the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Apr. 28.

“Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far,” said Groves.

“We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday,” he added. “So we’re proceeding.”

According to a Mar. 25 Government Accountability Office report entitled, “Data Collection is Under Way, But Reliability of Key Information Technology Systems Remains a Risk,” the Census Bureau was experiencing problems with two IT systems, one of which is the paper-based operation control system that Groves mentioned during the press conference.

The GAO reported last February that “key IT systems — most notably an automated system used to manage field data collection known as the Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) and a personnel and payroll processing system called the Decennial Applicant Personnel and Payroll System (DAPPS) — were experiencing significant performance issues.”

On Thursday, Robert Goldenkoff, the director of strategic issues for the GAO and author of the March 25 GAO report on the IT problems affecting the Census, told CNSNews.com:  “The [paper based] operational control system used to manage the field follow-up operation was still having stability issues last week; the Census Bureau continues to work on it.”

On Mar. 25, Judith Gordon, the principal assistant inspector general for Audit and Evaluation at the Department of Commerce, which runs the Census Bureau, testified about the IT problems affecting the Census before Congress, saying that the Census’ decennial count’s accuracy was “at risk” because of IT issues.

“IT problems place the efficiency and accuracy of Non-Response Follow-Up at risk and final decennial costs remain uncertain,” Gordon told lawmakers, and as CNSNews.com reported. Gordon had testified before a subcommittee on the Census of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In the same Mar. 25 GAO report, Goldenkoff revealed that “an estimated 50 million housing units out of a mail-out universe of about 120 million” would be non-respondents and would require an in-person follow-up to count. The operating budget for the NRFU is $2.7 billion.

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a decennial enumeration (census) of the American people to be used for allocating U.S. House seats among the states.

Transcript from Census Bureau Press Conference

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Here’s the transcript from Census Director Robert M. Groves’ press briefing on Wednesday. Unfortunately, my microphone (on Skype) cut out at the moment that I hoped to ask Dr. Groves a series of questions, which concerned why there are still failures of the paper-based operations control system and who (if anyone) is being held accountable for these errors. I forwarded these questions to Stephen Buckner at the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office, but have still not received a reply. Dr. Groves did briefly acknowledge errors in the PBOCS during his speech, but it is unlikely that any members of the mainstream media who don’t cover 2010 Census operations regularly would know about such a system and what those errors mean. Dr. Groves said, “We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.”

STEPHEN BUCKNER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Census Bureau’s news conference on the mail participation rates. I’d like to welcome everyone here in the room, and also those joining us online and via telephone. If you take a few moments, we have some information in your press kits, and also available online, including all the charts that Dr. Groves will be going over today as he walks you through America’s accomplishment in the mail participation rate for the 2010 census as we start to go door to door later this weekend.

Following Dr. Groves’ remarks, we will have a brief Q&A session for the media. Please state your name and organization prior to your question. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can during the news conference. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Groves. Thank you, Dr. Groves. (Applause)

DR. ROBERT GROVES: This is the first time I’ve heard applause. Well, welcome. I’m happy to be here and happy to see friendly faces in front of me. Today is a big day for us because we announce the end of the first half of the 2010 census. And we have good news, because we can thank the American public for really the first major achievement of the 2010 census, I think. So first, I need to say why are we honoring the American public in this way, and why is this a notable achievement? You need to know something about levels of participation in surveys in this country, and in fact in the western world over the past few decades to understand how wonderful what happened really is.

For the last 20 years, response rates, the level of participation of the public in sample surveys, in all sectors, the commercial sector, the government sector and the academic sector, have been falling. In fact, in the Census Bureau’s own survey, take the American Community Survey, this very large thing that we do continuously, we’ve lost 5 percentage points from the 2000 experience to now. So when I took this job, I really expected that any achievement close to the 2000 rate was beyond each. In fact, I urge you, urge the journalists here, to call up your favorite survey researcher and ask them one question: could you achieve the response rate today that you received ten years ago on the same survey? And see what they say.

So we had low expectations on getting close to where we were in 2000. And where were we on 2000? The combined short form and long form participation rate in 2000 was 69 percent at the time we cut off for the non-response follow-up. So if we believe those lower rates, we would have expected something lower than that. The short form only rate, out of the 2000, the portion of the households that got the short form, their participation rate was about 72 percent. We chose that as a stretch goal. We were preparing for response rates between 65 and 72 percent in our simulations. Well, what happened was the American public hit that stretch goal, and it was a wonderful display, we think, of civic participation. And I can tell you, the folks at the Census Bureau are dancing down the hallways.

There are a lot of neat things about that; 28 states met or exceeded their 2000 rate, that’s cool. Some of these are pretty large states; Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas. In addition, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico exceeded their 2000 rate. There are 11 other states within 1 percentage point of their 200 rate. North Carolina and South Carolina are kind of the poster children of 2010. They exceeded their rate in 2000 by 8 percentage points, just off the charts, so as they say these days, need a special shout out, I think. And there are thousands of jurisdictions around the country that have exceeded their 2000 rate.

Let me just give you a sense of this. In your press kit, I think you have notes that seven of the ten most populous counties equaled or surpassed their 2000 rates. Eight of the ten most populous cities did that, likewise. So once again, this is, I think, a congratulations due to the American public for their act of civic participation. And we are grateful and happy to report that.

It might be good to ask the question of why, why was that rate achieved? And the first thing that I want to point out are some hard data we have. The first unambiguous result in the why, I think, has to do with the replacement form. So if you look at this chart, let me help you read this chart. And for those of you on the phone, this is a chart that’s labeled 2010 average mail back participation rates for census tracks by assignment of 2010 replacement form. So it’s a busy graph, I’ll help you read it.

The X axis here is a day, sort of the life cycle of the mail out/mail back process. The Y axis is the participation rate. So the first thing you’ll see is that all of the lines rise as you go from left to right as the mail back rate built over days. Now, there are a lot of different lines here. The solid lines are from the 2010 data. The dashed, or dotted, lines are from 2000. There are three groups of lines color coded. The red line are those tracks that got replacement forms in a blanket fashion. If you lived in that track, whether you returned the form or not, you got a replacement form. The green line are tracks that were targeted. If you yourself did not return a form, you got a replacement form. If your neighbor did, they did not. And then finally, the blue line are the tracks where no replacement form was given.

Look at the dashed lines first. We targeted for blanket treatment the toughest tracks. They had low response rates in 2000. That’s the lowest line, the red dashed line, is low. And the green line were the targeted tracks. They had sort of medium participation rates. But you can see, both of those are pretty far below the blue. So we targeted the replacement form to those areas that tended in 2000 to have low participation rates.

What happened? Well, this replacement form worked. It’s just unambiguous in the data. Let your eyes focus on the solid red line. Look how after the blanket replacement mailing was complete around the 3rd of April, it starts pumping up. It just gets higher than the dashed line and stays higher. And then notice how the green line, solid green line, starts getting higher after the target replacement form. In fact, I can tell you, the green line is still pumping out cases as w speak. This is a good thing for the 2010 census because now let your eye go to the dashed lines and just look at the difference in height between the blue dashed line and the red dashed line. That variability in participation rate is not good for a census. We’d like everybody to have the same participation rate. We squeezed together those lines to this replacement form.

So the first question, why did we get a good participation rate, is the replacement form worked, and it worked in a wonderful way to reduce the variability in response rates. There’s another reason, and we have some data on this but it’s not as hard as these data; we think the advertising and the partnership worked. I think in prior discussions we’ve had, we showed you how the awareness of the census rose dramatically as the advertising and partnership campaigns evolved. That seems unambiguous, that that was a good reason why.

And then there are other things that have to do with judgments. I just told you that the participation rate in 2000 for the combined short and long form was 69 percent. And for the short form only was 72 percent. We’re pretty sure the short form was a great idea based on that comparison. We don’t have an empirical comparison of the long and short form in this census, but one clear, I’d be willing to make this speculation, one clear answer to the question why a high rate of participation rate, or why a high rate of participation, is that the short form reduced the burden on the American public and they cooperated at higher rates.

We are going to do tons of other analysis over the coming weeks to figure out other answers to the question why did this seem to work. That’s our job in order to prepare for the 2010 census. But those are the early findings on the reasons for success.

I want to turn to another issue, and that is the patterns of response rate. You can see on the map that we showed earlier that there’s variability in the response. If you just look at the colors, the colors are related to different response rates. Red is really good, blue is bad, and you can see how the colors vary. We’ve been publishing this map every day on the web, a lot of you have been watching it. You start looking at a map like that and you begin to make up hypotheses about geography as the cause of the participation rate. We’re pretty sure that’s a misinterpretation of this. And I want to give you a sense of the patterns of response.

You know that for several decades, the Census Bureau has tracked differential under counts. When the whole census is finished, differential under counts by race, ethnicity and age, and the patterns are very clear over decade after decade, that younger people, that minority groups, tend to be disproportionately missed in the census. I can tell you day by day, we were watching those differences on participation rates in this first half of the census to see if we were seeing those patterns.

The classic patterns emerge in 2010, they’re there. But the biggest drivers in the participation rate are not race and ethnicity in the 2010 census, but a variety of other indicators. And I wanted to give you a sense of what those look like. A lot of them are indicators of the socioeconomic status of the area. So let me describe what this is. This breaks the census tracks. There are about 65,000 census tracks in the country, into four groups of equal size by the rate of vacancy in the area. What proportion of the houses were vacant based on American community survey data over the past three years? So the X axis here separates all of the census tracks into four groups, from low vacancy rate to high vacancy rate.

The Y axis here is the participation rate. The pattern is beautifully monatomic, as they say, in the statistics business. It goes down with each added quartile from 76 percent way down to 64 percent. Tracks that have high vacancy rates tended to have low participation rates. And it’s a pretty strong effect.

Let me show you the next one. This does a similar sort of thing. It breaks the tracks into four groups by their level of percentage of multi-unit structures. And on the X axis, you see what those rates are. Similar sort of finding; pretty strong effects from 77 percent participation rate down to 64 percent. Tracks that have a lot of multi-unit structures or mobile homes versus those that have single family structures had lower participation rates.

Let’s look at the next one. Renter occupied housing units, same sort of divisions on the X axis, participation rate on the Y axis, moving from 77 to 64. Census tracks, neighborhoods with a lot of rental units had lower participation rates. Let’s look at the next one. Education. We can identify the proportion of people on the tracks with less than a high school degree, same sort to pattern. Tracks that have a lot of people with low education tend to have lower participation rates. And is that the final one? One more, poverty. The American community survey allows us to estimate the proportion of households under poverty threshold; 77 to 64, same thing.

Now in your press kit are other graphs that look at ethnicity and race. You’ll look at those and see smaller effects across those groups than you see across the socioeconomic indicators. Was this present in prior censuses? I suspect it was. Did we have the right data to do this sort of analysis? Now, this is a wonderful benefit of the American community survey that we can track in almost real time other indicators. These are the strongest drivers to participation rate, not the race, ethnicity indicators. But they’re pretty powerful drivers, as you see.

So we can say that tracks that have high rental units, low education, low income, are disproportionately where our non-response follow-up workload is. Those are the neighborhoods that we will be visiting disproportionately in the coming weeks.

I want to say just a bit about our current operations and then open it up for questions. We are proceeding on all sorts of operations now. I’m happy to report that every operation we’ve done since addressing canvassing in summer of 2009 are on time and on budget. Those are going well. We continue to struggle with the software system called the paper base operation control system, but we passed, just amazingly, a wonderful threshold last week where we printed out assignments for all these enumerators. It worked. We have assignments ready for 600,000 people who are ready to hit the streets on Saturday. So we’re proceeding. Not that it is the most loved piece of software in the Census Bureau, but it’s working well enough to get the census down so far.

I want to remind everyone that we have another press conference on Monday. And this is really a press conference to look forward to the non-response follow-up process. It’s a gigantic effort. It’s a complicated effort. We want to make sure you have all the facts that we do about how it’s going. We’ll talk about that. It’s important to note that although we report this mail back rate as if we’ve reached a final stage, this is really the end of the first half and that the census is not over. We will have a disposition on 100 percent of the units that we have on our list, those who didn’t get forms will be visited. Those who got forms and didn’t mail them out will be visited. We will collect information on everyone before we’re through, and that’s the second half that we’re now beginning. So I want to stop at this point and entertain questions. (more…)

Paper-based Operations Control System failures…

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Do you have any knowledge about this? If so, please post your comments here.

FOIA Request: Give us the e-mails of the following people who should be held responsible for tech failures

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

MyTwoCensus.com is hoping to get to the bottom of the Census Bureau’s IT woes:

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting all e-mails sent to and from Brian Monaghan, Barbara Lopresti, and Marilla Matos from February 4, 2010 through February 12, 2010.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com,governingpeople.com, and other publications. Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.
If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law. If you have any questions about handling this request, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

PS – I’m not sure why, but you never responded to my FOIA request for hotel information from February 25, 2010. Any updates on that situation?

Anatomy of a Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS) failure…

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Below are e-mails obtained by MyTwoCensus.com sent from Brian Monaghan and Barbara M. Lopresti at Census Bureau Headquarters to every regional Census Bureau office in America that describe IT systems failures:

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Janet R Cummings/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Gail A Leithauser/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Annetta Clark Smith/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Timothy P Olson/FLD/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/20/2010 09:52 AM

Subject:

PBOCS and NRFU

OK, folks…   here’s where we are as of 8:45 a.m. Tuesday morning  -

As of 6:00 p.m. or so Monday evening, the last of the LMR automated removal occurred.  On Friday, April 23, there will be a PBOCS deployment which will include the reports of LMRs since Monday.  Those reports will then be available for clerical line-through of LMRs on the assignment registers (which are hopefully being printed by then).

We are expecting all of the even numbered AAs to have their reports (listings, labels, etc.) generated in the system by 11:00 a.m. this morning.

The system continues to be somewhat unstable, so at midnight tonight we need all LCOs and RCCs to get off PBOCS and stay off until Thursday morning (we hope).  That will give us a clean opportunity to generate the majority of reports for the odd numbered AA’s (we hope).  So…  no users on the system starting at midnight tonight and lasting through Wednesday.

Our # 1 priority is to get all of the reports generated and copied to an alternative printing site, so that if PBOCS goes down, the LCOs will still be able to print materials needed for NRFU assignment prep.   Once the even numbered AAs have all of their reports generated (by 11:00 a.m. this morning), we will begin the process of exporting the files to an alternative print site.   Several additional meetings need to occur to work through all of the details, but our hope is that DOTS will be testing this alternative printing site in, say, one LCO per region…  ideally nearby the RCC so your LSC can observe…  either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  It’s not clear at this point whether we will be able to pull everything together that quickly.

Bottom line is that we are still planning for the LCOs to begin printing assignments for the even numbered AAs Thursday morning…  either through PBOCS or the alternative print site.  At this time, we are assuming all other PBOCS users will also regain access to the system Thursday morning.   We have asked that odd numbered AAs be made available on a flow basis of some sort…  groups of LCOs or regions…  rather than waiting until all reports are generated to make them available for printing. This weekend will be a huge crunch time for the LCOs…  all hands need to be on deck…  as they prepare assignments for all of the even numbered AAs and as many of the odd as possible.

Please make sure the LCOs are firing on all cylinders with NRFU map printing. That task is outside of PBOCS, so the downtime tomorrow will not be a problem.  It’s really critical to get this job done ASAP, so that the printers in the LCO are not tied up with NRFU maps, and are available for assignment prep.    If you cannot get all NRFU maps done by COB Wednesday, give top priority to the even numbered AAs, so assignment prep can be completed for work headed to the field first thing next week.  An added impetus to the NRFU map printing work is that there is a remote chance that LCOs may be able to start assignment prep for even numbered AAs tomorrow (Wednesday) if we are able to get the alternative print site set up, files exported, systems tested in some LCOs, and instructions prepared.   LCOs which have completed NRFU map printing will be likely candidates for this somewhat unlikely event.

We can talk more at the RD Conference Call this afternoon, or call me if you have an immediate concern.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

FLD Regional Directors

Cc:

FLD Deputy Regional Directors List, FLD Decennial Branch Chiefs, FLD Decennial Assistant Division Chiefs List, Marilia A Matos/DIR/HQ/BOC@BOC, Barbara M LoPresti/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC, Michael T Thieme/DMD/HQ/BOC@BOC, Chad G Nelson/TMO/HQ/BOC@BOC

Date:

04/14/2010 09:48 AM

Subject:

PBOCS

As you may know, PBOCS went down last night.  The 40 LCOs that were scheduled to be ingested did not get ingested.  PBOCS is back up this morning and available for your use, but the concerns about instability remain.

We must do the following to prepare for NRFU:

PBOCS will be taken down tonight at 8:00 p.m., and will not be available again until Monday morning, April 19. Hopefully, minimizing the number of users and uses will increase the stability of the system, allowing the full ingest of all LCOs to be completed over the next several days.  As you heard at the Regional Directors’ Conference, this is a critical first step in the process of preparing for NRFU assignment prep.

DOTS will be sending out a separate notice to you and your automation folks, and each of the Decennial Branch Chiefs will issue ops logs with suggestions and cautions about getting through the next several days.  For example,  it’s critically important not to send completed work to the processing office unless it has been checked out through PBOCS.  If you box up and send in ICRs/MCRs without going through the formal PBOCS check-out process, we will lose the critical linkage with their Group Quarters.   We will be asking you to hold completed work in the office until PBOCS is back up and running.  Of course, work on all operations can and should continue in the field.

This will be a really important time for the LCOs to stay as organized and systematic as possible…   labeling and sorting piles of completed and pending work in  a way such that, when PBOCS is made available, we can rapidly recover.  If work needs to go to the field while PBOCS is down, the LCOs will need to manually track the assignments, so they know who has what, and when  they got it.  Once PBOCS is made available on Monday, the LCOs will need to key in this information to get the system caught up.

Thanks for your patience as we work through these challenges.

From:
Brian Monaghan/FLD/HQ/BOC

To:

fld.regional.directors@census.gov

Cc:

fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov” <fld.decennial.assistant.division.chiefs.list@census.gov>, “Barbara M LoPresti” <barbara.m.lopresti@census.gov>, “Chad Nelson” <chad.g.nelson@census.gov>, “fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov” <fld.deputy.regional.directors.list@census.gov>

Date:

04/08/2010 05:57 PM

Subject:

Fw: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.

We need to shut down PBOCS at 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 9, instead of waiting until midnight.  We had a lengthy discussion today and, as you can imagine, time is a critical commodity.  Lots of work has to be done in preparation for NRFU, and if it means an extension for ETL or delays in check-in of GQE and UE, so be it.

Call me if you have any questions or just need to vent.  We wouldn’t be doing this full weekend shutdown if it wasn’t really necessary.

    Inactive hide details for Barbara M LoPresti Barbara M LoPresti

—– Original Message —–
From: Barbara M LoPresti
Sent: 04/08/2010 05:02 PM EDT
To: Brian Monaghan; Chad Nelson; Janet Cummings; Gail Leithauser; Annetta Smith; Michael Thieme; Pamela Mosley; Marilia Matos; Arnold Jackson
Cc: Thomas McNeal; Curtis Broadway
Subject: PBOCS System Outage starting Friday April 9th at 500pm ET.
Brian,
In the 430 meeting today, Tom and Curtis felt it was best to take the Pbocs system down at 5::00 pm eastern time on Friday, April 9th (tomorrow).
Please let me and Chad know when you have informed the RDs and then we will get a DOTS message out to the RCCs.
Thanks
Barbara


MyTwoCensus files Freedom of Information Act request to better understand Census Bureau tech failures

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Dear Ms. Potter and Staff:

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, I am requesting the records of all technical and information technology glitches, failures, and errors that involved the Census Bureau and its technology systems from January 1, 2006 through the present. This includes everything from e-mail systems going down to fingerprint scanners not working properly to the recent paper-based operational control system failure. Most important to me are items pertaining to the 2010 Census. I would appreciate if you started with the most recent failures and worked your way back. These should include every piece of technology that the Census Bureau uses at field offices as well as at headquarters in Suitland.

As you probably already know, I run MyTwoCensus.com, the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 Census. My work has also appeared on MotherJones.com, governingpeople.com, and other publications.  Since this is a non-commercial request and the release of these documents will serve the public interest (because analyzing these documents is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government), I am requesting that all fees be waived.

I am also requesting expedited processing of these documents under the clause on your web page that states I can do so if this information is “urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity.” With the 2010 Census just around the corner, and recent reports by the Associated Press and other organizations that language translations have been inadequate and sub-par, this request deserves your prompt attention.

If you deny all or any part of this request, please cite each specific exemption you think justifies your withholding of information. Notify me of appeal procedures available under the law.

Sincerely,

Stephen Robert Morse

Anonymous Census Bureau Official: Major Nation-wide IT FAILURE at the Census Bueau

Monday, April 19th, 2010

The following piece comes to us from a Census Bureau official from the Mid-West region who has requested anonymity but has had her identity verified by MyTwoCensus.com. Her discussion of a major week-long IT systems failure has effected every Census Bureau office across the country and demonstrates how disgraceful operations are being handled (and subsequently covered up, as MyTwoCensus has requested information about this failure numerous times yet has not received any responses from the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office):

I have a problem in my local census office. The problem is 493 of those offices across the nation are having the same exact problem. You see, in November and December 2009 when I first started at the Census Bureau, one of my first assignments was assisting in a system load test known as the Decennial Application Load Test (or DALT for short). DALT simulated the conditions of every census office employee logging on at the same time across the nation and what would happen. This was my first taste of our federal tax dollars hard at work. As is typical of any large scale government program the whole system went kaput; users couldn’t log-on and applications crashed.

The Bureau’s contingency plan was to limit users and ask offices to spread out their staffing. We started to run an evening shift which meant paying night differential (an additional 10% pay) to our night employees.  One application of concern was PBOCS the Paper Based Operational Control System that was unveiled in January 2010 to complete the rest of their field operations. The system was developed after the Census decided to nix the Harris Corporation as their contractor. The PBOCS system was used to check out assignments into the field, make assignments to enumerators, check work into the office after completion and check out for shipping. In February 2009 after the two big snowstorms that hit Washington DC the same thing happened. The Bureau’s contingency plan for PBOCS was to limit users to four per local census office and remove functionality they didn’t deem was mandatory.

In the last few weeks we are experiencing many more problems as we near non-response followup the most massive operation of the decennial census. Some of PBOCS problems include but are not limited to:
* individual census reports (ICRS) from group quarters enumeration that PBOCS claims are missing for shipment.
* daily progress reports that are outdated or showing the wrong numbers
* numerous system crashes where work is lost or has to be rescanned
* wrong or missing work being selected for reinterview

At the beginning when these problems started, the RCC pointed fingers at the local census offices accusing them of not using the system or processing the work properly. However when several offices reported the same issues the blame then shifted to the software.

To further complicate things is the divide that also occurs between the local census office employees and the the regional census center and headquarters staff. The headquarters and regional census center staff are mostly career employees. The local census office employees are temporary Schedule A hourly employees. Although both are referencing the same procedures in the same manuals the local census office employees are the ones who are doing the grunt work (the enlisted men per say). The RCC and headquarters staff (the commissioned officers) manage and oversee but do not realize the difficulties and nuances because they are not out there getting their hands dirty.

The LCO employees are finding that the PBOCS system actually will not update the report numbers or sometimes show the wrong numbers. The RCC and headquarters are lead to believe if the work doesn’t show in the system as completed then it is not completed. However when the reports don’t show the quotas are being met the career census employees usually get on the phone to threaten the temporary employees and even sometimes terminating their employment.

This weekend is the third weekend PBOCS has gone offline. On Wednesday April 14 it was announced PBOCS was to go down at 8pm (actually went down about 5pm) and will not be back up until Monday morning April 19th. We are somewhat relieved to hear through the grapevine that the RCC and headquarters will be more lenient and readjust their production goals for the entire nation. However I think that much of the intimidation and harassment will occur again so that the career census employees can cover their asses and recover any of the money they were probably paying in overtime for programmers to fix this crap piece of software. This is all the while they tell the temporary employees at the LCO that overtime will be strictly prohibited.

The career employees at RCC and headquarters hold the temporary LCO employees accountable for mistakes they [RCC and headquarters] made in the ten years they had to prepare since the last decennial. But who is held accountable at the highest levels when a multi-billion dollar piece of software doesn’t work and they constantly have to fix it? I hope the Inspector General and my congressmen are reading this because PBOCS is government waste at its finest. How ironic it is happening in the nearing days of the largest operation of the decennial census.