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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National 
Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of 
Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT: 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009: 

2010 Census: 

Efforts to Build an Accurate Address List Are Making Progress, but Face 
Software and Other Challenges: 

Statement of Robert Goldenkoff: 

Director, Strategic Issues: 

GAO-10-140T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-140T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on 
Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The decennial census is a constitutionally mandated activity that 
produces data used to apportion congressional seats, redraw 
congressional districts, and help allocate billions of dollars in 
federal assistance. A complete and accurate master address file (MAF), 
along with precise maps—the U.S. Census Bureau’s (Bureau) mapping 
system is called Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and 
Referencing (TIGER®)—are the building blocks of a successful census. If 
the Bureau’s address list and maps are inaccurate, people can be 
missed, counted more than once, or included in the wrong location. This 
testimony discusses the Bureau’s readiness for the 2010 Census and 
covers: (1) the Bureau’s progress in building an accurate address list; 
and (2) an update of the Bureau’s information technology (IT) system 
used to extract information from its MAF/TIGER® database. Our review 
included observations at 20 early opening local census offices in hard-
to-count areas. The testimony is based on previously issued and ongoing 
work. 

What GAO Found: 

The Bureau has taken, and continues to take measures to build an 
accurate MAF and to update its maps. From an operational perspective, 
the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) and address canvassing 
generally proceeded as planned, and GAO did not observe any significant 
flaws or operational setbacks. Group quarters validation got underway 
in late September as planned. A group quarters is a place where people 
live or stay that is normally owned or managed by an entity or 
organization providing housing and/or services for the residents (such 
as a boarding school, correctional facility, health care facility, 
military quarters, residence hall, or dormitory). 

LUCA made use of local knowledge to enhance MAF accuracy. Between 
November 2007 and March 2008, over 8,000 state, local, and tribal 
governments participated in the program. However, LUCA submissions 
generated a relatively small percentage of additions to the MAF. For 
example, of approximately 36 million possible additions to the MAF that 
localities submitted, 2.4 million (7 percent) were not already in the 
MAF. The other submissions were duplicate addresses, non-existent, or 
non-residential. 

Address canvassing (an operation where temporary workers go door to 
door to verify and update address data) finished ahead of schedule, but 
was over budget. Based on initial Bureau data, the preliminary figure 
on the actual cost of address canvassing is $88 million higher than the 
original estimate of $356 million, an overrun of 25 percent. The 
testing and improvements the Bureau made to the reliability of the hand 
held computers prior to the start of address canvassing played a key 
role in the pace of the operation, but other factors were important as 
well, including the prompt resolution of technical problems and lower 
than expected employee turnover. The Bureau’s address list at the start 
of address canvassing consisted of 141.8 million housing units. Listers 
added around 17 million addresses and marked about 21 million for 
deletion. All told, listers identified about 4.5 million duplicate 
addresses, 1.2 million nonresidential addresses, and about 690,000 
addresses that were uninhabitable structures. The overall quality of 
the address file will not be known until later in the census when the 
Bureau completes various assessments. 

While the Bureau has made some improvements to its management of 
MAF/TIGER® IT such as finalizing five of eight test plans, GAO 
continues to be concerned about the lack of finalized test plans, 
incomplete metrics to gauge progress, and an aggressive testing and 
implementation schedule going forward. Given the importance of 
MAF/TIGER® to an accurate census, it is critical that the Bureau ensure 
this system is thoroughly tested. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO is not making new recommendations, but past reports recommended 
improvements to the Bureau’s address-building procedures, as well as to 
the management and testing of the MAF/TIGER® system. The Bureau 
generally agreed with these recommendations and has taken steps to 
implement some of them. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-140T] or key 
components. For more information, contact Robert Goldenkoff, 202-512-
2757, goldenkoffr@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member McHenry, and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to report on the U.S. Census Bureau's 
(Bureau) progress in building a complete and accurate address list. As 
you know, a complete and accurate address list, along with precise 
maps, are the fundamental building blocks of a successful census. An 
accurate address list is critical because it both identifies all 
households that are to receive a census questionnaire and serves as the 
control mechanism for following up with households that fail to respond 
to the initial mailout questionnaire. Precise maps are critical for 
counting the population in their proper locations--the basis of 
congressional reapportionment and redistricting. If the Bureau's 
address list and maps are inaccurate, people can be missed, counted 
more than once, or included in the wrong location. The Bureau's 
database of the nation's approximately 140 million addresses is called 
the Master Address File (MAF); and the Bureau's mapping system is the 
Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER®) 
database.[Footnote 1] 

On its face, it would appear that building an accurate address list 
would be a relatively straightforward task given the obvious nature of 
many dwellings and the availability of postal addresses. However, 
people do not always reside in conventional housing units, and in fact 
can reside in "hidden" housing units such as converted attics and 
basements, as well as cars, boats, trailers, labor camps, and other 
less traditional locations. Although these types of dwellings have 
always existed, the large number of foreclosures the nation has 
recently experienced, as well as the natural disasters that have hit 
the Gulf Coast and other regions, have likely increased the number of 
people doubling-up, living in motels, tent cities, and other types of 
less conventional housing. The Bureau has found that such individuals 
are at greater risk of being missed in the census. Moreover, in 
addition to housing units (which include single family homes, 
apartments, and mobile homes), many other people reside in prisons, 
dormitories, nursing homes, and similar group living arrangements known 
as "group quarters." 

One of the Bureau's long-standing challenges has been reducing the 
differential impact of errors in the census. Minorities, renters, and 
children, for example, are more likely to be missed by the census while 
more affluent groups, such as people with vacation homes, are more 
likely to be enumerated more than once. Because the success of the 
census, including reducing the differential undercount, rests, in large 
part, on the quality of the Bureau's address list and maps, the Bureau 
goes to great lengths over the course of the decade to ensure the 
accuracy of MAF/TIGER using multiple operations that include 
partnerships with the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies; 
state, local, and tribal governments; and local planning organizations. 
In all, the Bureau's operational plan includes 11 operations that 
contribute to the accuracy of the address list. 

Nevertheless, because of the diversity and complexity of living 
arrangements in our nation, compiling an accurate address file is no 
easy task. During the 2000 Census, for example, Bureau evaluations 
estimated that of the 116 million housing units in the final census 
count, about 2.3 million housing units were incorrectly included in the 
census and about 2.7 million housing units were missed. 

As requested, my testimony will describe the Bureau's progress in 
building an accurate address file for the 2010 Census, paying 
particular attention to the Bureau's preliminary results of three MAF- 
building operations that can help locate hidden housing units and other 
traditionally hard-to-count populations: the Local Update of Census 
Addresses (LUCA) program, the Address Canvassing operation, and Group 
Quarters Validation (an initial phase of a multistep effort to ensure 
these types of dwellings are properly located and counted). The Bureau 
has completed LUCA and Address Canvassing, while Group Quarters 
Validation just got underway a few weeks ago (each of these operations 
are described in greater detail later in my statement). I will also 
provide an update on the information technology (IT) system the Bureau 
will use to update and extract information from its MAF/TIGER database. 
In our prior work, we noted that the system faced challenges because of 
an aggressive testing schedule. 

My remarks also include observations that could help inform the design 
of the next decennial census. Rigorous planning and perhaps even a 
fundamental reexamination of the census might be required because the 
current approach to the national enumeration may no longer be 
financially sustainable. Indeed, the cost of conducting the census has, 
on average, doubled each decade since 1970 in constant 2010 dollars. If 
that rate of cost escalation continues into 2020, the nation could be 
looking at a $30 billion census. 

My testimony today is based on our ongoing and completed reviews of the 
Bureau's efforts to build an accurate address file and maps, as well as 
our reviews of the Bureau's testing and implementation of selected IT 
systems. We completed our review of the Local Update of Census 
Addresses and the Address Canvassing operation in October and our 
findings are included in this testimony. Our review of the Group 
Quarters Validation operation began in September and is ongoing. 

To evaluate the preliminary results of address building operations, we 
reviewed and analyzed scheduling, budget, design, operational and 
testing plans for the 2010 Address Canvassing operation and interviewed 
cognizant Bureau officials at headquarters and early opening local 
census offices.[Footnote 2] In addition, our reviews of the Bureau's 
efforts to build an accurate address file included on-site observations 
at a number of locations across the country. For example, for address 
canvassing, we conducted 38 observations of address listers and crew 
leaders as they went door to door and interviewed local census office 
managers in 20 urban, suburban, and rural census offices. We selected 
these early opening local census offices because they were located in 
hard to count areas as determined by data from the 2000 Census. To make 
these selections, we also used other factors such as their percentage 
of rural population to obtain diversity in urban/rural populations and 
proximity to hurricane-affected areas. The locations chosen for 
observations were not a random selection, and thus results may not be 
generalizable nationwide. We collected data on the Bureau's preliminary 
results of its MAF building activities during interviews and follow-up 
meetings with the Bureau. Based on our limited examination of this 
information thus far, we consider these data sufficiently reliable for 
providing current information on MAF building activities for this 
testimony. Finally, in order to provide an update on the IT system, we 
relied on previously published GAO work. 

We conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audits to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

In summary, the Bureau has, and continues to take extraordinary 
measures to build an accurate address list and update its maps. 
Further, from an operational perspective, LUCA and address canvassing 
generally proceeded as planned (and in fact, address canvassing 
finished ahead of schedule), and we did not observe any significant 
flaws or major operational setbacks. Group Quarters Validation got 
underway in late September as planned. Importantly, however, the 
overall quality of the address file will not be known until later on in 
the census when the Bureau completes various assessments. Identifying 
valid housing units, especially hidden housing units and other 
nontraditional housing stock, is an inherently complex task. While the 
Bureau has made some improvements to its management of MAF/TIGER IT, we 
continue to be concerned about the lack of finalized test plans, 
incomplete metrics to gauge progress, and an aggressive testing and 
implementation schedule going forward. 

[End of section] 

Background: 

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the decennial census is a constitutionally 
mandated enterprise critical to our nation. Census data are used to 
apportion seats and redraw congressional districts, and to help 
allocate over $400 billion in federal aid to state and local 
governments each year. 

We added the 2010 Census to our list of high-risk areas in March 2008, 
because improvements were needed in the Bureau's management of IT 
systems, the reliability of handheld computers (HHC) that were designed 
in part to collect data for address canvassing, and the quality of the 
Bureau's cost estimates. Compounding the risk was that the Bureau 
canceled a full dress rehearsal of the census that was scheduled in 
2008, in part, because of performance problems with the HHCs during the 
address canvassing portion of the dress rehearsal, which included 
freeze-ups and unreliable data transmissions. In response to our 
findings and recommendations, the Bureau has strengthened its risk 
management efforts, including the development of a high-risk 
improvement plan that described the Bureau's strategy for managing risk 
and key actions to address our concerns. Overall, since March 2008, the 
Bureau has made commendable progress in getting the census back on 
track, but still faces a number of challenges moving forward. 

One of the Bureau's long-standing challenges has been building an 
accurate address file, especially locating unconventional and hidden 
housing units, such as converted basements and attics. For example, as 
shown in figure 1, what appears to be a single-family house could 
contain an apartment, as suggested by its two doorbells. The Bureau has 
trained address listers to look for extra mailboxes, utility meters, 
and other signs of hidden housing units, and has developed training 
guides for 2010 to help enumerators locate hidden housing. Nonetheless, 
decisions on what is a habitable dwelling are often difficult to make-
-what is habitable to one worker may seem uninhabitable to another. 

Figure 1: Single or Multiunit Housing? 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

This is an illustration of a house that could be single or multiunit. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

If the address lister thought the house in figure 1 was a single family 
home, but a second family was living in the basement, the second family 
is at greater risk of being missed by the census. Conversely, if the 
lister thought a second family could be residing in the home, when in 
fact it was a single family house, two questionnaires would be mailed 
to the home and costly nonresponse follow-up visits could ensue in an 
effort to obtain a response from a phantom housing unit. 

LUCA Submissions Generated a Small Percentage of Additions to the MAF: 

Under the LUCA program, the Bureau partners with state, local, and 
tribal governments, tapping into their knowledge of local populations 
and housing conditions in order to secure a more complete 
count.[Footnote 3] Between November 2007 and March 2008, over 8,000 
state, local, and tribal governments provided approximately 42 million 
addresses for potential addition, deletion, or other actions. Of those 
submissions, approximately 36 million were processed as potential 
address additions to the MAF--or what the Bureau considers 
"adds."[Footnote 4] 

According to Bureau officials, one reason LUCA is important is because 
local government officials may be better positioned than the Bureau to 
identify unconventional and hidden housing units due to their knowledge 
of particular neighborhoods, or because of their access to 
administrative records in their jurisdictions. For example, local 
governments may have alternate sources of address information (such as 
utility bills, tax records, information from housing or zoning 
officials, or 911 emergency systems). In addition, according to Bureau 
officials, providing local governments with opportunities to actively 
participate in the development of the MAF can enhance local 
governments' understanding of the census and encourage them to support 
subsequent operations. 

The preliminary results of address canvassing show that the Bureau 
added relatively few of the address updates submitted for inclusion in 
the MAF through LUCA. Of approximately 36 million addresses submitted, 
about 27.7 million were already in the MAF. Around 8.3 million updates 
were not in the MAF and needed to be field-verified during address 
canvassing. Of these, about 5.5 million were not added to the MAF 
because they did not exist, were a duplicate address, or were 
nonresidential. Address canvassing confirmed the existence of around 
2.4 million addresses submitted by LUCA participants that were not 
already in the MAF (or about 7 percent of the 36 million proposed 
additions).[Footnote 5] 

Bureau officials have indicated that they began shipping out detailed 
feedback to eligible LUCA participants on October 8, 2009, that 
includes information on which addresses were accepted. On November 1, 
2009, the Office of Management and Budget is scheduled to open the LUCA 
appeals office that will enable LUCA participants who disagree with the 
Bureau's feedback to challenge the Bureau's decisions. This appeals 
process allows governments to provide evidence of the existence of 
addresses that the Bureau missed. If the government's appeal is 
sustained, then Bureau will include those addresses in later 
enumeration activities, and enumerate them if they are located in the 
field. 

The LUCA program is labor intensive for both localities and the Bureau 
because it involves data reviews, on-site verification, quality control 
procedures, and other activities, but produced marginal returns. While 
these were unique additions to the MAF that may not have been 
identified in any other MAF-building operation, they were costly 
additions nonetheless. As a result, as the Bureau prepares for the 2020 
Census, it will be important for it to explore options that help 
improve the efficiency of LUCA, especially by reducing the number of 
duplicate and nonexistent addresses submitted by localities. 

The Bureau Generally Completed Address Canvassing Ahead of Schedule but 
Went Over Budget: 

The Bureau conducted address canvassing from March to July 2009. During 
that time, about 135,000 address listers went door to door across the 
country, comparing the housing units they saw on the ground to what was 
listed in the database of their HHCs. Depending on what they observed, 
listers could add, delete, or update the location of housing units. 

Although the projected length of the field operation ranged from 9 to 
14 weeks, most early opening local census offices completed the effort 
in less than 10 weeks. Moreover, the few areas that did not finish 
early were delayed by unusual circumstances such as access issues 
created by flooding. The testing and improvements the Bureau made to 
the reliability of the HHCs prior to the start of address canvassing, 
including a final field test that was added to the Bureau's 
preparations in December 2008, played a key role in the pace of the 
operation; but other factors, once address canvassing was launched, 
were important as well, including the (1) prompt resolution of problems 
with the HHCs as they occurred and (2) lower than expected employee 
turnover. 

With respect to the prompt resolution of problems, the December 2008 
field test indicated that the more significant problems affecting the 
HHCs had been resolved. However, various glitches continued to affect 
the HHCs in the first month of address canvassing. For example, we were 
informed by listers or crew leaders in 14 early opening local census 
offices that they had encountered problems with transmissions, freeze-
ups, and other problems. Moreover, in 10 early opening local census 
offices we visited, listers said they had problems using the Global 
Positioning System function on their HHCs to precisely locate housing 
units. When such problems occurred, listers called their crew leaders 
and/or the Bureau's help desk to resolve the problems. When the issues 
were more systemic in nature, such as a software issue, the Bureau was 
able to quickly fix them using software patches. 

Moreover, to obtain an early warning of trouble, the Bureau monitored 
key indicators of the performance of the HHCs, such as the number of 
successful and failed HHC transmissions. This approach proved useful as 
Bureau quality control field staff were alerted to the existence of a 
software problem when they noticed that the devices were taking a long 
time to close out completed assignment areas. 

The Bureau also took steps to address procedural issues. For example, 
in the course of our field observations, we noticed that in several 
locations listers were not always adhering to training for identifying 
hidden housing units. Specifically, listers were instructed to knock on 
every door and ask, "Are there any additional places in this building 
where people live or could live?" However, we found that listers did 
not always ask this question. On April 28, 2009, we discussed this 
issue with senior Bureau officials. The Bureau, in turn, transmitted a 
message to its field staff emphasizing the importance of following 
training and querying residents if possible. 

Lower than expected attrition rates and listers' availability to work 
more hours than expected also contributed to the Bureau's ability to 
complete the Address Canvassing operation ahead of schedule. For 
example, the Bureau had planned for 25 percent of new hires to quit 
before, during, or soon after training; however, the national average 
was 16 percent. Bureau officials said that not having to replace 
listers with inexperienced staff accelerated the pace of the operation. 
Additionally, the Bureau assumed that employees would be available 18.5 
hours a week. Instead, they averaged 22.3 hours a week. 

The Bureau's address list at the start of address canvassing consisted 
of 141.8 million housing units. Listers added around 17 million 
addresses and marked about 21 million for deletion because, for 
example, the address did not exist. All told, listers identified about 
4.5 million duplicate addresses, 1.2 million nonresidential addresses, 
and about 690,000 addresses that were uninhabitable structures. 
Importantly, these preliminary results represent actions taken during 
the production phase of address canvassing and do not reflect actual 
changes made to the Bureau's master address list as the actions are 
first subject to a quality control check and then processed by the 
Bureau's Geography Division. 

The preliminary analysis of addresses flagged for add and delete shows 
that the results of the operation (prior to quality control) were 
generally consistent with the results of address canvassing for the 
2008 dress rehearsal. Table 1 compares the add and delete actions for 
the two operations. 

Table 1: Percentage of Add and Delete Lister Actions (Prior to Quality 
Control or Bureau Processing) for 2010 Address Canvassing and 2008 
Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 

Adds; 
2010 Address Canvassing: 10.8%; 
2008 Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 8.5%. 

Deletes; 
2010 Address Canvassing: 13.2%; 
2008 Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 12.8%. 

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. 

[End of table] 

Address Canvassing Costs Exceeded Budget Because of Unanticipated 
Workload and Hiring: 

According to the Bureau's preliminary analysis, the estimated cost for 
address canvassing field operations was $444 million, or $88 million 
(25 percent) more than its initial budget of $356 million.[Footnote 6] 
As shown in table 2, according to the Bureau, the cost overruns were 
because of several factors. 

Table 2: Bureau's Preliminary Analysis of Address Canvassing Costs 
Exceeding Budget: 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Increased initial workload; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $41. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Underestimated quality control workload; 
Estimated costs (in millions): 34. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Training additional staff; 
Estimated costs (in millions): 7. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Fingerprinting (funded separately); 
Estimated costs (in millions): 6. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Total; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $88. 

[End of table] 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 

One such factor was that the address canvassing cost estimate was not 
comprehensive, which resulted in a cost increase of $41 million. The 
Bureau underestimated the initial address canvassing workload and the 
fiscal year 2009 budget by 11 million addresses. Further, the 
additional 11 million addresses increased the Bureau's quality control 
workload, where the Bureau verifies certain actions taken to correct 
the address list. Specifically, the Bureau did not fully anticipate the 
impact these additional addresses would have on the quality control 
workload, and therefore did not revise its cost estimate accordingly. 
Moreover, under the Bureau's procedures, addresses that failed quality 
control would need to be recanvassed, but the Bureau's cost model did 
not account for the extra cost of recanvassing addresses. As a result, 
the Bureau underestimated its quality control workload by 26 million 
addresses which resulted in $34 million in additional costs, according 
to the Bureau. 

Bringing aboard more staff than was needed also contributed to the cost 
overruns. For example, according to the Bureau's preliminary analysis, 
training additional staff accounted for about $7 million in additional 
costs.[Footnote 7] Bureau officials attributed the additional training 
cost to inviting additional candidates to initial training due to past 
experience and anticipated no show and drop out rates, even though (1) 
the Bureau's staffing plans already accounted for the possibility of 
high turnover and (2) the additional employees were not included in the 
cost estimate or budget. 

The largest census field operation will be next summer's nonresponse 
follow-up, when the Bureau is to go door to door in an effort to 
collect data from households that did not mail back their census 
questionnaire. Based on the expected mail response rate, the Bureau 
estimates that over 570,000 enumerators will need to be hired for that 
operation. To better manage the risk of staffing difficulties while 
simultaneously controlling costs, several potential lessons learned for 
2010 can be drawn from the Bureau's experience during address 
canvassing. For example, we found that the staffing authorization and 
guidance provided to some local census managers were unclear and did 
not specify that there was already a cushion in the hiring plans for 
local census offices to account for potential turnover. Also, basing 
the number of people invited to initial training on factors likely to 
affect worker hiring and retention, such as the local unemployment 
rate, could help the Bureau better manage costs. 

According to Bureau officials, they are reviewing the results from 
address canvassing to determine whether they need to revisit the 
staffing strategy for nonresponse follow-up and have already made some 
changes. For example, in recruiting candidates, when a local census 
office reaches 90 percent of its qualified applicant goal, it is to 
stop blanket recruiting and instead focus its efforts on areas that 
need more help, such as tribal lands. However, in hiring candidates, 
the officials pointed out that they are cautious not to underestimate 
resource needs for nonresponse follow-up based on address canvassing 
results because they face different operational challenges in that 
operation than for address canvassing. For example, for nonresponse 
follow-up, the Bureau needs to hire enumerators who can work in the 
evenings when people are more likely to be at home and who can 
effectively deal with reluctant respondents, whereas with address 
canvassing, there was less interaction with households and the 
operation could be completed during the day. 

Problems with accurately estimating the cost of address canvassing are 
indicative of long-standing weaknesses in the Bureau's ability to 
develop credible and accurate cost estimates for the 2010 Census. 
Accurate cost estimates are essential to a successful census because 
they help ensure that the Bureau has adequate funds and that Congress, 
the administration, and the Bureau itself can have reliable information 
on which to base decisions. However, in our past work, we noted that 
the Bureau's estimate lacked detailed documentation on data sources and 
significant assumptions, and was not comprehensive because it did not 
include all costs.[Footnote 8] Following best practices from our Cost 
Estimating and Assessment Guide, such as defining necessary resources 
and tasks, could have helped the Bureau recognize the need to update 
address canvassing workload and other operational assumptions, 
resulting in a more reliable cost estimate.[Footnote 9] 

The Bureau Needs to Improve Its Policies for Fingerprinting Temporary 
Employees: 

To better screen its workforce of hundreds of thousands of temporary 
census workers, the Bureau plans to fingerprint its temporary workforce 
for the first time in the 2010 Census.[Footnote 10] In past censuses, 
temporary workers were subject to a name background check that was 
completed at the time of recruitment. The Federal Bureau of 
Investigation (FBI) will provide the results of a name background check 
when temporary workers are first recruited. At the end of the workers' 
first day of training, Bureau employees who have received around 2 
hours of fingerprinting instruction are to capture two sets of 
fingerprints on ink fingerprint cards from each temporary worker. The 
cards are then sent to the Bureau's National Processing Center in 
Jeffersonville, Indiana, to be scanned and electronically submitted to 
the FBI. If the results show a criminal record that makes an employee 
unsuitable for employment, the Bureau is to either terminate the person 
immediately or place the individual in nonworking status until the 
matter is resolved. If the first set of prints are unclassifiable, the 
National Processing Center is to send the FBI the second set of prints. 

Fingerprinting during address canvassing was problematic. Of the over 
162,000 employees hired for the operation, 22 percent--or approximately 
35,700 workers--had unclassifiable prints that the FBI could not 
process. The FBI determined that the unclassifiable prints were 
generally the result of errors that occurred when the prints were first 
made. Factors affecting the quality of the prints included difficulty 
in first learning how to effectively capture the prints and the 
adequacy of the Bureau's training. Further, the workspace and 
environment for taking fingerprints was unpredictable, and factors such 
as the height of the workspace on which the prints were taken could 
affect the legibility of the prints. 

Consistent with FBI guidance, the Bureau relied on the results of the 
name background check for the nearly 36,000 employees with 
unclassifiable prints.[Footnote 11] Of the prints that could be 
processed, fingerprint results identified approximately 1,800 temporary 
workers (1.1 percent of total hires) with criminal records that name 
check alone failed to identify. Of the 1,800 workers with criminal 
records, approximately 750 (42 percent) were terminated or were further 
reviewed because the Bureau determined their criminal records--which 
included crimes such as rape, manslaughter, and child abuse--
disqualified them from census employment. 

Projecting these percentages to the 35,700 temporary employees with 
unclassifiable prints, it is possible that more than 200 temporary 
census employees might have had criminal records that would have made 
them ineligible for census employment. Importantly, this is a 
projection, and the number of individuals with criminal backgrounds 
that were hired for address canvassing, if any, is not known. 

Applying these same percentages to the approximately 600,000 people the 
Bureau plans to fingerprint for nonresponse follow-up, unless the 
problems with fingerprinting are addressed, approximately 785 employees 
with unclassifiable prints could have disqualifying criminal records 
but still end up working for the Bureau.[Footnote 12] 

Aside from public safety concerns, there are cost issues as well. The 
FBI charged the Bureau $17.25 per person for each background check, 
whether or not the fingerprints were classifiable. 

The Bureau has taken steps to improve image quality for fingerprints 
captured in future operations by refining instruction manuals and 
providing remediation training on proper procedures. In addition, the 
Bureau is considering activating a feature on the National Processing 
Center's scanners that can check the legibility of the image and thus 
prevent poor quality prints from reaching the FBI. These are steps in 
the right direction. As a further contingency, it might also be 
important for the Bureau to develop a policy for refingerprinting 
employees to the extent that both cards cannot be read. 

The Bureau Used Enhanced Training and Guidance for Canvassing Hurricane 
Affected Areas: 

The scale of the destruction in those areas affected by Hurricanes 
Katrina, Rita, and Ike made address canvassing in parts of Mississippi, 
Louisiana, and Texas especially challenging (see fig. 2). Hurricane 
Katrina alone destroyed or made uninhabitable an estimated 300,000 
homes. Recognizing the difficulties associated with address canvassing 
in these areas because of shifting and hidden populations and changes 
to the housing stock, the Bureau, partly in response to recommendations 
made in our June 2007 report,[Footnote 13] developed supplemental 
training materials for natural disaster areas to help listers identify 
addresses where people are, or may be, living when census 
questionnaires are distributed. For example, the materials noted the 
various situations listers might encounter, such as people living in 
trailers, homes marked for demolition, converted buses and recreational 
vehicles, and nonresidential space such as storage areas above 
restaurants. The training material also described the clues that could 
alert listers to the presence of nontraditional places where people are 
living and provided a script they should follow when interviewing 
residents on the possible presence of hidden housing units. 

Figure 2: Locating and Counting People Displaced by Storms Presents a 
Challenge: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

This is a picture of two homes whose residents have been displaced by a 
storm.

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Additional steps taken by the city of New Orleans also helped the 
Bureau overcome the challenge of canvassing neighborhoods devastated by 
Hurricane Katrina. As depicted in figure 3 below, city officials 
replaced the street signs even in abandoned neighborhoods. This 
assisted listers in locating the blocks they were assigned to canvass 
and expedited the canvassing process in these deserted blocks. 

Figure 3: Replacement Street Signs Facilitated Address Canvassing in 
New Orleans: 

[Refer PDF for image: illustration] 

This is a picture of replacement street sights which helped address 
canvassing in New Orleans. 

Source: GAO. 

To further ensure a quality count in the hurricane-affected areas, the 
Bureau plans to hand-deliver an estimated 1.2 million questionnaires 
(and simultaneously update the address list) to housing units in much 
of southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi that appear inhabitable, 
even if they do not appear on the address list updated by listers 
during address canvassing. Finally, the Bureau stated that it must 
count people where they are living on Census Day and emphasized that if 
a housing unit gets rebuilt and people move back before Census Day, 
then that is where those people will be counted. However, if they are 
living someplace else, then they will be counted where they are living 
on Census Day. 

[See PDF for image] 

[End of figure] 

Validating the Group Quarters Address List Is Important for Reducing 
Potential Duplicates and Other Errors: 

To help ensure group quarters are accurately included in the census, 
the Bureau is conducting an operation called Group Quarters Validation, 
an effort that is to run during September and October 2009, and has a 
workload of around 2 million addresses in both the United States and 
Puerto Rico.[Footnote 14] During this operation, census workers are to 
visit each group quarter and interview its manager or administrator 
using a short questionnaire. The goal is to determine the status of the 
address as a group quarter, housing unit, transitory location, 
nonresidential, vacant, or delete. If the dwelling is in fact a group 
quarter, it must then be determined what category it fits under (e.g., 
boarding school, correctional facility, health care facility, military 
quarters, residence hall or dormitory, etc.), and confirm its correct 
geographic location. The actual enumeration of group quarters is 
scheduled to begin April 1, 2010. 

According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-year estimates, 
more than 8.1 million people, or approximately 2.7 percent of the 
population, live in group quarter facilities. Group quarters with the 
largest populations include college and university housing (2.3 
million), adult correctional facilities (2.1 million), and nursing 
facilities (1.8 million). The Bureau drew from a number of sources to 
build its list of group quarters addresses including data from the 2000 
Census, LUCA submissions, internet based research, and group quarters 
located during address canvassing. 

During the 2000 Census, the Bureau did not always accurately enumerate 
group quarters. For example, in our prior work, we found that the 
population count of Morehead, Kentucky, increased by more than 1,600 
when it was later found that a large number of students from Morehead 
State University's dormitories were erroneously excluded from the 
city's population when the Bureau incorrectly identified the 
dormitories as being outside city limits and in an unincorporated area 
of Rowan County. Similarly, North Carolina's population count was 
reduced by 2,828 people, largely because the Bureau had to delete 
duplicate data on almost 2,700 students in 26 dormitories at the 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Precision is critical 
because, in some cases, small differences in population totals could 
potentially impact apportionment and/or redistricting decisions. 

The Bureau developed and tested new group quarters procedures in 2004 
and 2006 that were designed to address the difficulties the Bureau had 
in trying to identify and count this population during the 2000 Census. 
For example, the Bureau integrated its housing unit and group quarters 
address lists in an effort to reduce the potential for duplicate 
counting as group quarters would sometimes appear on both address 
lists. Moreover, the Bureau has refined its definition of the various 
types of group quarters to make it easier to accurately categorize 
them. The operation began on September 28, as planned, in all 151 early 
opening local census offices and was 95 percent complete as of October 
16, 2009. We have begun observations and will report our findings at a 
later date. 

It Will Be Important for the Bureau to Determine Return on Investment 
for Each MAF-Building Activity: 

With the cost of enumerating each housing unit continuing to grow, it 
will be important for the Bureau to determine which of its multiple MAF-
building operations provide the best return on investment in terms of 
contributing to accuracy and coverage. According to the Bureau, it is 
planning to launch over 70 evaluations and assessments of critical 2010 
Census operations and processes, many of which are focused on improving 
the quality of the MAF. For example, the Bureau plans to study options 
for targeted address canvassing as an alternative to canvassing every 
block in the country. The Bureau considered two major criteria for 
determining which studies to include in their evaluation program--the 
possibility for significant cost savings in 2020 and/or the possibility 
of significant quality gains in 2020. As the Bureau makes plans for the 
2020 Census, these and other studies could prove useful in helping the 
Bureau streamline and consolidate operations, with an eye toward 
controlling costs and improving accuracy. 

Completing Testing for MAF/TIGER System Will Be a Challenge: 

Automation and IT systems will play a critical role in the ability of 
MAF/TIGER to extract address lists, maps, and provide other geographic 
support services. In our prior work, however, we have called on the 
Bureau to strengthen its testing of the MAF/TIGER system. In March 
2009, for example, we reported and testified that while the MAF/ TIGER 
program had partially completed testing activities, test plans and 
schedules were incomplete and the program's ability to track progress 
was unclear.[Footnote 15] Specifically, while the Bureau had partially 
completed testing for certain MAF/TIGER products (e.g., database 
extracts)[Footnote 16] related to address canvassing, subsequent test 
plans and schedules did not cover all of the remaining products needed 
to support the 2010 Census. Further, Bureau officials stated that 
although they were estimating the number of products needed, the exact 
number would not be known until the requirements for all of the 2010 
Census operations were determined. As such, without knowing the total 
number of products and when the products would be needed, the Bureau 
risked not being able to effectively measure the progress of MAF/TIGER 
testing activities. This in turn increased the risk that there may not 
be sufficient time and resources to adequately test the system and that 
the system may not perform as intended. At that time we recommended 
that the MAF/TIGER program establish the number of products required 
and establish testing plans and schedules for 2010 operations. 

In response to our recommendations, the Bureau has taken several steps 
to improve its MAF/TIGER testing activities, but substantial work 
remains to be completed. For example, the MAF/TIGER program has 
established the number of products and when the products are needed for 
key operations. Furthermore, the program finalized five of eight test 
plans for 2010 operations, of which the testing activities for one test 
plan (address canvassing) have been completed; three are under way; and 
one has not yet started. Lastly, the program's test metrics for 
MAF/TIGER have recently been revised; however, only two of five 
finalized test plans include detailed metrics. While these activities 
demonstrate progress made in testing the MAF/TIGER system, the lack of 
finalized test plans and metrics still presents a risk that there may 
not be sufficient time and resources to adequately test the system and 
that the system may not perform as intended. 

Given the importance of MAF/TIGER to establishing where to count U.S. 
residents, it is critical that the Bureau ensure this system is 
thoroughly tested. Bureau officials have repeatedly stated that the 
limited amount of time remaining will make completing all testing 
activities challenging. 

Concluding Observations: 

The Bureau recognizes the critical importance of an accurate address 
list and maps, and continues to put forth tremendous effort to help 
ensure MAF/TIGER is complete and accurate. That said, the nation's 
housing inventory is large, complex, and diverse, with people residing 
in a range of different circumstances, both conventional and 
unconventional. The operations we included in this review generally 
have proceeded as planned, or are proceeding as planned. Nevertheless, 
accurately locating each and every dwelling in the nation is an 
inherently challenging endeavor, and the overall quality of the 
Bureau's address list will not be known until the Bureau completes 
various assessments later in the census. Moreover, while the Bureau has 
improved its management of MAF/TIGER IT systems, we continue to be 
concerned about the lack of finalized test plans, incomplete metrics to 
gauge progress, and an aggressive testing and implementation schedule 
going forward. Given the importance of MAF/TIGER to an accurate census, 
it is critical that the Bureau ensure this system is thoroughly tested. 

[See PDF for image] 

[End of figure] 

Figure 35: On October 15, 2009, we provided the Bureau with a statement 
of facts for our ongoing audit work pertaining to this testimony, and 
on October 16, 2009, the Bureau forwarded written comments. The Bureau 
made some suggestions where additional context or clarification was 
needed and, where appropriate, we made those changes. 

Mr. Chairman and members of this Subcommittee, this concludes my 
statement. I would be happy to respond to any questions that you might 
have at this time. 

If you have any questions on matters discussed in this statement, 
please contact Robert N. Goldenkoff at (202) 512-2757 or by e-mail at 
goldenkoffr@gao.gov. Other key contributors to this testimony include 
Assistant Director Signora May, Peter Beck, Steven Berke, Virginia 
Chanley, Benjamin Crawford, Jeffrey DeMarco, Dewi Djunaidy, Vijay 
D'Souza, Elizabeth Fan, Amy Higgins, Richard Hung, Kirsten Lauber, 
Andrea Levine, Naomi Mosser, Catharine Myrick, Lisa Pearson, David 
Reed, Jessica Thomsen, Jonathan Ticehurst, Kate Wulff, and Timothy 
Wexler. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] TIGER is a registered trademark of the U.S. Census Bureau. 

[2] The Bureau managed the Address Canvassing and Group Quarters 
Validation operations out of 151 early opening local census offices. 

[3] Census Address List Improvement Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-430. 

[4] For 2010 LUCA, there were three options for participation, one of 
which enabled localities to submit the entire address list for their 
entity without comparing it to the Bureau's list of addresses. The 
Bureau processed these submissions as "adds" in order to match and 
unduplicate the records against those in the MAF. Therefore, the 36 
million adds includes every address for those entities that submitted 
their entire address list to the Bureau for matching. 

[5] The remaining 438,722 addresses could not be resolved and were 
included in the census. 

[6] Address canvassing costs for field operations include training, 
work hours, and mileage for temporary field staff. These costs do not 
include recruiting, large block canvassing, office infrastructure, 
management or technical support staff, IT contracts, and partnership 
program or communication campaign activities. 

[7] Officials clarified that training costs should exclude training 
hours spent for fingerprinting and conducting 4 hours of actual 
production work as part of training. 

[8] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Should Take Action to Improve the 
Credibility and Accuracy of Its Cost Estimate for the Decennial Census, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-554] (Washington, D.C.: June 16, 2008). 

[9] GAO, GAO Cost Estimating And Assessment Guide: Best Practices for 
Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-3SP] (Washington, 
D.C.: March 2009). 

[10] The National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact, enacted in 
1998, generally requires that fingerprints be submitted with all 
requests for criminal history record checks for noncriminal justice 
purposes, 42 U.S.C. § 14616. For the 2000 Census, the FBI did not have 
the capacity to timely process the fingerprints of Census's temporary 
workforce, so they were subject to only a name background check. 

[11] The Bureau will refingerprint employees with unclassifiable prints 
if they are rehired for another operation. 

[12] The approximately 600,000 workers to be fingerprinted for 
nonresponse follow-up include over 570,000 enumerators and other field 
staff, such as crew leaders and field operation supervisors. 

[13] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Has Improved the Local Update of 
Census Addresses Program, but Challenges Remain, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-736] 
(Washington, D.C.: June 14, 2007). 

[14] According to the Bureau, group quarters are "places where people 
live or stay in a group living arrangement that are owned or managed by 
an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the 
residents." 

[15] GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Testing of 2010 
Decennial Systems Can Be Strengthened, GAO-09-262 (Washington, D.C.: 
Mar. 5, 2009) and GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Needs to 
Strengthen Testing of 2010 Decennial Systems, GAO-09-413T (Washington, 
D.C.: Mar. 5, 2009). 

[16] For MAF/TIGER, testing activities are defined by products needed 
for key activities, such as address canvassing and nonresponse follow- 
up.

[End of section] 

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