Is the Census ready for its big moment?

  • 19 February 2020
  • NormanL

The 2020 Census is about to get underway and, as always, there are big concerns about how well the count will go.

The Government Acocuntability Office has been closely monitoring the Census over the last few years, identifying ways the count can be made more efficient, more secure, and more accurate. Now that the time for counting noses is almost here, is the program ready? The GAO says there are still some very big issues in need of fixing. These include recuiting people to run the count:

The Bureau is behind in its recruiting of applicants for upcoming operations. If the Bureau does not recruit sufficient individuals, it may have difficulty hiring enough staff to complete its upcoming operations within scheduled time frames.

Testing its computer systems:

The Bureau also needs to quickly address concerns related to the readiness of its internet response system. In January 2020, the Bureau identified a scalability issue that was preventing it from meeting its goal of enabling up to 600,000 users to access the primary internet response system at the same time without experiencing performance problems.

And perhaps most importantly, keeping all that data safe from hackers:

The Bureau also continues to face significant cybersecurity challenges, including those related to addressing cybersecurity weaknesses in a timely manner, resolving cybersecurity recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and addressing numerous other cybersecurity concerns (such as protecting the privacy of respondent data).

Conducting the Census is one of the federal government's most important, constitutionally-mandated, functions. There's still some time to correct the shortcomings the GAO has identified. Here's hoping the Census Bureau gets them fixed as soon as possible.