Wednesday, June 7, 2017
WASHINGTON–Representatives of a coalition of census stakeholders added their voices to a growing chorus of leaders in business, industry, civil rights, academia, and state and local government stressing the urgency for the Trump Administration to promptly nominate a highly qualified individual to take the reins of the U.S. Census Bureau.
In a letter to the President and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, members of the Census Project urged the Administration to act quickly to fill the vacancy created by resignation at the end of this month of current Director, John Thompson. Thompson’s early resignation leaves the Bureau without a leader just as it is at a critical planning and testing phase for the 2020 Decennial Census, and on the eve of the 2017 Economic Census.
“Decennial census data are central to our democracy, affecting not only apportionment and redistricting, but also the distribution of approximately $600 billion in federal assistance to states and localities each year,” wrote the Census Project members in the letter to Trump.
“Given the significance of the Bureau’s mission and the data it produces, the process for selecting the next Director should continue the tradition of respecting the agency’s political independence, both in reality and perception, and to guard against diminished public confidence in the census process and outcome,” the letter said.
Thompson’s resignation is compounding a daunting array of workload challenges between now and the end of the decade, including the 2017 Economic Census, the annual American Community Survey of about 4 million households a year, and end-to-end testing of new designs for the 2020 decennial Census, which will feature the first ever on-line response option.
Phil Sparks of the Census Project said the letter was prompted by concerns in the census stakeholder community that the Bureau must have strong, experienced, and qualified leadership at precisely the very moment it has little.
“In effect, the Secretary now owns day-to-day management of the Bureau. There soon will be no Director, there is an acting Deputy, and we have critical managment vacancies at the Department with no Undersecretary and no Deputy Secretary,” Sparks said. “I don’t think the country is best served with no one at the helm of constitutionally mandated Census.”
The full text of the letter and all co-signers can be found on the Census Project website.