The Census Bureau (Census) might not be ready for the end-to-end test of its Decennial Census program, according the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Census is designing its Decennial Census program, which contains the data collection systems the agency will use to tabulate information for the 2020 Census. The bureau will begin to test the systems in August 2017. According to GAO, Census plans to include 50 systems in the end-to-end test; however, half of the systems are either scheduled to be delivered after the test date or lack a delivery date altogether.
“Given the short window of time before the test is to begin, it is important that the Bureau continue to focus its attention on implementing and securing the data collection systems that are to collect and store the personal information of millions of American people,” the GAO report, published Nov. 16, stated.
GAO also said Census needs to work in tandem more efficiently with its data collection program. The report states that Census needs to take steps to manage interdependencies with the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCAP) program. The CEDCAP program aims to deliver a system of systems to help Census manage collected survey data and process functions. The bureau will use the CEDCAP program in the 2020 Census. GAO reported in August 2016 that, while the Decennial Census and CEDCAP programs have taken steps to coordinate risks and requirements, the entities “lacked effective processes for managing interdependencies.”
“Until these interdependencies are managed more effectively, the bureau will be limited in its ability to meet milestones, mitigate major risks, and ensure that requirements are appropriately identified,” the report stated.
According to the report, the 2020 Census introduces new information security challenges, as households will have the option of responding to Census survey questions over the Internet. The report said that this capability increases the risk of phishing attacks, and that Census is focusing on these risks in their Decennial program design. GAO made eight recommendations to the Department of Commerce, under which Census operates. The department agreed with all eight recommendations.