December 2016 Update



New cybersecurity law prompts change in confidentiality pledge — The Census Bureau has revised the confidentiality pledge it shares with respondents for its surveys and censuses, including the decennial census and ACS. The change was prompted by the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, which passed as part of the FY2016 omnibus appropriations bill in December 2015 (P.L. 114-113). The Act, in relevant part, required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to bolster protections for federal agencies against cyber-attacks, through a system known as Einstein 3A. The system electronically scans Internet traffic in and out of agencies to search for malware in real time. If the system detects a possible cyber-attack, it can isolate the affected Internet traffic for further scrutiny. In doing so, it is possible that DHS personnel might see personal data that otherwise are shielded from all but Census Bureau staff or their sworn agents under the Census Act (Title 13, United States Code). While DHS can only monitor Internet traffic for cybersecurity purposes under the new law, the Census Bureau can no longer promise respondents that only sworn agency personnel can see their personal responses.

The Census Bureau is inviting public comments on the revised confidentiality pledge. The 60-day comment period closes on February 21, 2017.

Census Bureau invites nominations for new advisory committee — The Census Bureau announced the creation of a new 2020 Advisory Committee and invited nominations to the 25-member panel of organizations, which will advise the Census Director on all aspects of planning and implementation for the next census. Nominations are due by January 19, 2017.

Post-Enumeration Survey address listing operation for 2018 dry run — The Census Bureau will start an independent address listing operation for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) in January 2018, according to a new Federal Register notice. A PES is an independent, representative sample of housing units conducted after major census operations are finished. It is used to measure the accuracy of the original enumeration. The full “coverage measurement” program will produce estimates of census undercounts and overcounts for the 2020 Census. The 60-day public comment period on the work to validate plans for building the address sample for the test PES ends on February 27, 2017.


FY2017 appropriations update — In one of its final acts before adjourning, the 114th Congress passed a second short-term spending bill that keeps federal agencies operating through April 28, 2017 — more than halfway through Fiscal Year 2017 (FY2017), which began on October 1, 2016. The Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act (P.L. 114-254) funds most federal programs at FY2016 levels.

The second so-called Continuing Resolution (CR) allows some agencies to spend at higher levels, through provisions known as “anomalies.” The Obama Administration, with support from census stakeholders, requested such an exception to flat-funding for the Census Bureau’s Periodic Censuses and Programs account, which includes the 2020 Census, in order to support the continued “ramp up” in planning and preparations for the decennial count. Appropriators, however, did not offer the increased annualized “spend rate” of $1.192 billion the Administration sought. Instead, they provided a modified anomaly that essentially allows the Bureau to spend within the FY2016 funding level but at a faster rate during the term of the CR, to “maintain the schedule and deliver the required data according to statutory deadlines in the 2020 Decennial Census Program.”

Congressional committees start to organize for 115th Congress  — Congressional committees that oversee and fund the Census Bureau took initial steps to organize for the 115th Congress, which convenes on January 3rd. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) will become the Ranking Member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which authorizes and oversees Census Bureau programs. Former ranking member and chairman, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), ceded the top Democratic spot on the committee in order to assume the same position on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. McCaskill is up for reelection in 2018. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) will continue to serve as the HSGAC chairman. The full committee has retained jurisdiction over census issues in recent years, instead of assigning responsibility to a subcommittee, although that could change when the panel organizes in the new year.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will become Vice Chairman (ranking Democrat) of the Senate Appropriations Committee, taking the place of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who is retiring this year. Sen. Mikulski also was the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, which has not yet announced its membership for the new Congress.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will continue to chair the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the 115th Congress; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) will retain his Ranking Member spot. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) is expected to retain his chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, which has jurisdiction over Census Bureau activities. Rep. Meadows also will chair the House Freedom Caucus in the 115th Congress. Caucus members elected the congressman to head the two-year old group, which is widely considered to include the most conservative members of the House of Representatives. According to its Facebook page, the Caucus supports “open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”

As we reported in the October Update, Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen (R-NJ) will become the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) will stay on as the senior Democrat. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is likely to keep the top spot on the CJS panel, while Democrats must choose a new subcommittee Ranking Member after Acting Ranking Member Mike Honda (D-CA) lost his reelection bid.


Stakeholders reach out to President-Elect and transition team — National organizations participating in The Census Project sent a letter to President-Elect Donald Trump, urging his Administration’s support for an accurate 2020 Census and high-quality ACS. Stakeholders urged the President-Elect to (1) “provide the Census Bureau with steady leadership” by quickly re/nominating and urging timely confirmation of a Census Director; (2) prioritize sufficient funding for 2020 Census planning, preparations, and implementation; and (3) support full funding and mandatory response for the American Community Survey (ACS).

President-Elect announces more intended nominees for key positions — President-Elect Donald Trump announced that he will nominate Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Rep. Mulvaney, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, served on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations, which has jurisdiction over Census Bureau activities. At a June 9, 2016, committee hearing, the congressman said that he received complaints from constituents about the ACS and asked if the survey was necessary to meet the constitutional obligation for a census. He suggested that Congress should eliminate legal penalties (fines and/or prison time) for refusal to respond to the ACS, after Census Director John Thompson said that the Bureau does not refer nonresponders to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.

Census Director John Thompson’s current term ends on December 31. Under the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-166), he may continue to serve until he or a successor is re/appointed, but not longer than one year past the end of his term. Mr. Thompson also is eligible to be nominated again for a five-year term. The Census Director position requires Senate confirmation.

2020 Census Residence Criteria still under review — The Census Bureau continues to research issues related to the proposed criteria for counting incarcerated persons in the census, thereby pushing into 2017 an announcement of the final rules that govern where people are counted in the census. Census Director Thompson previously indicated that the Bureau would publish final 2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations by the end of 2016.

From your friends at The Census Project