Census Director Resigns, Trouble Ahead

By Phil Sparks

You would not have thought that the same week Washington-based media was focused on the firing of FBI Director Comey, the abrupt resignation of Census Bureau Director John Thompson would have garnered much press attention – but it did!

In editorials and news articles, the media decried the Thompson resignation, rightfully so.

Director Thompson’s sudden resignation leaves the Census Bureau leaderless just as Congress has dramatically underfunded the FY 2017 census budget, and as the Trump administration only proposes increasing the bureau’s FY 2018 budget by $30 million.

Let’s hope reality sets in with the Trump administration. As the Washington Post editorial concludes, “the 2020 Census will begin in April of that year – right in the middle of the primary season. The bureau’s troubles pre-date Mr. Trump’s ascension but the census is happening on his watch. If it fails, he will own it.”

The Tangle of the Census Budget

At an oversight hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies this week, it was clear that there are two conflicting views of preparations for the 2020 Census. Republicans on this central committee, which controls the purse strings in the House, are concerned about overruns in 2020 Census budget planning. Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee are concerned about underfunding the next decennial census.

Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) sharply criticized Census Bureau Director John Thompson for announcing that the price tag for the overall 2020 Census had increased by more than $300 million because the IT components of the plan had been underpriced.

Committee member and Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA) said continued underfunding of 2020 Census planning was “penny wise and pound foolish.” In fact, he partially blamed the cost overruns on the lack of previous funding in the census budget to get the job done at a reasonable price. He warned that similar, future budget cuts could lead to the same result.

While the policymakers on the subcommittee wrangle, Congress itself is set to approve a FY 2017 census budget that is a historically low appropriation at this point in decade cycle.

The Census Project believes the upcoming FY 2018 census budget represents the last, best chance for congressional policymakers and the Trump administration to get things right for the critical 2018 End-to-End field test of all components for the new, innovative 2020 Census.

Stand by!

Deadline for Census Funding Approaches

By Phil Sparks

Over the past two months, the Census Project’s stakeholders and allies have visited scores of key congressional offices to talk to members of Congress and their aides about the upcoming 2020 Census budget crisis.

2020 Census Funding Lagging at Critical Phase

 

As the chart above shows, the planning and execution of each decennial census runs on a 10-year cycle. Funding ramps up for a field test of new census counting techniques in each year ending in 8, leading up to the decennial.

But, Congress has provided woefully inadequate funding for the 2020 Census over the past few years as compared with previous decades.

Now, Congress and the new Trump administration must find the funds to properly fund the 2020 Census. In three separate letters to Congress, organized by the Census Project, a diverse group of organizations — ranging from governors and mayors to business groups like realtors and home builders to civil rights groups like the NAACP — each urge Congress to properly fund planning for the 2020 Census.

Soon, because of the pending April 28 federal budget deadline, Congress must act!

Policymaker Challenges for the 2020 Census

By Phil Sparks

Over the past two months, stakeholders of the Census Project – including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Association of Counties – visited more than 40 congressional offices, warning them of the consequences of inadequate funding for the 2020 Census.

Our stakeholders reported back that many of the key offices they visited needed an in-depth updating on both the importance of the next decennial and how it is funded. And, many political challenges lie ahead.

For example, one knowledgeable congressional aide predicted to our stakeholders that Congress will simply “flat line” this year’s census budget at the same levels as last year, and kick the can down the road.

The Census Project believes this would be dangerous. The Census Bureau needs significant, additional funds in 2018 for the so-called End-to-End field test of new technologies designed to make the 2020 Census more efficient and less costly to the American taxpayer.

Something has got to give, and Census Project stakeholders are working hard with policymakers in Congress to understand the consequences of underfunding the next decennial census.

Government Statistics Vital

The conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Brookings Institution have jointly written a new report arguing for the importance of government statistics, especially the American Community Survey and the decennial census. A bipartisan effort on behalf of good data!

Why Full Funding Matters for the 2020 Census Budget Request

 

Soon, the new Trump Administration will announce more details of its proposed annual federal budget. Information about funding of the 2020 Census could be included.

The Census Project has prepared a fact sheet on “Why Full Funding Matters.”

In a related development, FCW News published an article on the challenges facing the new Congress and the Trump Administration regarding funding of both the 2020 Census and the companion American Community Survey (ACS).