One of the most important functions of the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting the decennial census, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and provides vital data for the nation. This is a major undertaking, and the Bureau increasingly relies on IT to support the operational design and execution of the census. For the 2020 Decennial Census, the Bureau is planning significant changes to the methods and technologies it uses to conduct the census. However, it has not previously used many of these methods at the scale being considered for 2020, which adds a large degree of risk.
The GAO was asked to review the Bureau's IT-related efforts for the 2020 census. GAO's objectives were to determine (1) progress in researching and testing IT options to support design decisions for the census, (2) key IT risks facing the census and evaluate the Bureau's efforts to mitigate them, and (3) progress in implementing prior GAO recommendations related to IT management and information security. To do this, GAO reviewed Bureau plans, schedules, risk data, and other documentation and interviewed relevant officials.
The GAO is recommending that the Department of Commerce's Census Bureau prioritize its IT-related research and testing projects that it needs to complete to support the design decision and develop project schedules and plans to reflect the new prioritized approach.