Census Risk

As reported last week in Government Executive, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report (GAO-08-79) that discusses the four critical US Census Bureau information technology projects needed to support the 2010 census, and the several that are over budget and behind schedule. The GAO report in addition noted that risk management practice on these Census IT projects is weak.

The Census is fast running out of time to fully field test its new approach using hand-held computers instead of paper-and-pencil methods to gather census information. While the Census is confident that its approach will work at the required time, others, such as myself, are less sanguine.

The Census's approach to managing risk as a whole, and the risk management used by Census contractors responsible for the individual Census IT projects, has not, shall we say, been as good as it could have been. Given that the effort was high risk from the very beginning, and that the results of a census have tremendous economic and political import, the risk management practice was woefully short of what it should have been. For US citizens' sake, let's hope the past management decisions taken at the Census don't lead to a major IT blunder.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City