House lawmakers ask GAO to look at Census CEDCaP program for 2020 count

Three house lawmakers are calling on the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the Census Bureau over concerns with the agency’s pending IT programs before the 2020 decennial census takes place.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah),  Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) sent a letter to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro asking GAO to determine whether the the bureau is properly monitoring the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing program for cost, schedule, scope, risk and information security issues.

The inquiry comes with concerns about the Census Bureau’s ability to manage large-scale IT projects after the agency ran $3 billion over budget during the 2010 Census, when it experienced issues with its mobile device initiative.

“The bureau does not have a reliable track record for acquiring and implementing major IT solutions,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Dodaro. “As such, the Government Accountability Office highlighted CEDCAaP among a handful of major governmentwide IT investments considered to be at high-risk in its 2015 update of the GAO High Risk List.”

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CEDCaP focuses on centralizing data collection for 14 different initiatives, including the census. Because of mobile initiatives such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and teleworking, the Census Bureau expects to save $200 million with CEDCaP, and announced its goal is to conduct the upcoming census on the same budget it had in 2010.

CEDCaP already launched in October 2014, but GAO flagged the program for monitoring after the results of the last census.

Former GAO director of IT acquisition management issues Carol Cha said the concern is that if Census plans on full scale testing starting in October 2018, that’s only three years from today and it’s not a lot of time to get a several complicated pieces in place.

In an interview with Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller, Brian McGrath, the Census Bureau’s former chief information officer, said using CEDCaP is a worth risk taking.

“If we could get 75 percent of the field representatives to use their own personal device, we think we could save about $200 million. We think that’s sufficient savings that’s worth us exploring,” he said. “We learned a tremendous amount as we moved forward for our planning in 2015.”

Lawmakers asked GAO to look at three basic aspects of the program, including the use of best practices to manage cost, schedule and performance metrics, ensuring cybersecurity of the system and the data and the management of the dependencies between CEDCAP and the overall 2020 count.