Census Bureau:

Important Activities for Improving Management of Key 2010 Decennial Acquisitions Remain to be Done

GAO-06-444T: Published: Mar 1, 2006. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2006.

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The Census Bureau plans to increase its use of automation to conduct the 2010 Decennial Census. Two key acquisitions are the Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) and the Field Data Collection Automation program (FDCA). DRIS is expected to standardize and integrate data from census forms and other response modes. FDCA is expected to provide automation support for field data collection activities. Last year, Congress asked GAO to assess the status, plans, and management capabilities of both of these projects. In January 2006, GAO briefed Congressional staff on the results of that work. This testimony summarizes key findings from that briefing, including the status and management capabilities of each project.

The Census Bureau has initiated efforts to acquire DRIS and FDCA, key systems it needs to perform the 2010 Decennial Census. It awarded a contract for DRIS in October 2005; the system is currently in a design and development phase. The bureau expects to award a contract for FDCA development in March 2006. While both projects' life cycle cost estimates are currently considered procurement sensitive, together they are expected to make up a large portion of the $1.8 billion program to develop, test, and implement decennial census systems. Both acquisitions involve ambitious schedules in order to be able to deliver the needed functionality to support a planned 2008 census dress rehearsal and the eventual 2010 census activities. While both project offices have implemented initial acquisition management activities, neither has the full set of capabilities they need to effectively manage the acquisitions. Specifically, the DRIS project completed its solicitation activities and the FDCA project has completed most of its solicitation activities. However, activities in other management areas have been initiated but not completed. For example, the DRIS project office has established baseline requirements for the acquisition, but the bureau has not yet validated them or implemented a process for managing the requirements. Also, while the FDCA project office has initiated efforts to oversee the contractor's performance, such as requiring earned value management reporting (a project management tool that integrates cost, schedule, and scope of work to aid project planning and control) and hiring staff with contracting experience, it has not yet determined which performance measures it will use to track the contractor and its own internal project office performance. Until these and other basic contract management activities are fully implemented, both projects face increased risks that the systems will experience cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As of September 2006, the DRIS Project Office has finalized the Project Plan and obtained stakeholders agreements to the plan.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to complete the DRIS project plan and obtain stakeholders' commitment to the plan before initiating further development work.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DRIS project has established requirements for two of three phases of DRIS development and has collaborated with the contractor to develop success criteria for each requirement. In addition, the DRIS project has improved its management of the requirements by establishing a process to verify all requirements and track their verification

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to obtain validation, management, and customer approval of DRIS requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The DRIS project office established teams with responsibility for performing requirements management activities. Further, the project office completed important requirements management activities, including mapping the requirements to test procedures and executing the test procedures.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to staff teams and perform planned requirements management activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In GAO-08-79, we determined that the DRIS Project Office is adequately identifying and documenting risks, including system interface risks. The project office has also developed mitigation and contingency plans for significant risks and is regularly briefing senior managers on these risks. An analysis of the most current DRIS risk register, dated May 16, 2008, shows that 19 risks remain (5 high, 5 medium, 9 low), each with a documented risk mitigation plan.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to develop mitigation plans with milestones for key activities, and regularly brief senior managers on important risks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau's Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) Project Office has established performance measures for monitoring the results of contractor and project office activities.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to establish performance measures and monitor results for contractor and project office activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau's Decennial Response Integration System (DRIS) Project Office has established a quality assurance process to monitor the DRIS contractor and the project office's performance.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the DRIS project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to implement a quality assurance process by establishing responsibilities for assuring product quality and defining how inspections, reviews, and walkthroughs will be used to measure quality.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Census Bureau has not yet established and enforced a system acquisition management policy that incorporates best practices in system and software acquisition management.

    Recommendation: Further, to ensure that the bureau improves its ability to manage this and other acquisitions, the Director of the Census Bureau should immediately establish and enforce a system acquisition management policy that incorporates best practices in system and software acquisition management (including those highlighted in our briefing).

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2008, the FDCA project held an integrated baseline review to finalize the project's plan. In doing so, the project obtained commitment on its planned cost and schedule, including deliverables and milestones.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the FDCA project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to obtain stakeholder commitment to a project plan that includes estimated project costs and schedules, including deliverables and milestones.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2008, the Census Bureau validated and approved the FDCA baseline requirements.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the FDCA project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to obtain validation and approval of baseline requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDCA project office has identified, prioritized, and assigned responsibilities for risks. In addition, the project office has developed and implemented mitigation plans.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the FDCA project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to identify, prioritize, and assign responsibilities for risks, and develop and implement risk mitigation plans and actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FDCA project office established performance measures for its activities and the contractor's tasks and deliverables.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the bureau adequately manages the FDCA project, the Director of the Census Bureau should direct the project office to develop internal and contractor performance measures and prepare to track project cost, schedule, and performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce: Bureau of the Census

 

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