Prepared Remarks of Congresswoman Maloney: “Critical Budget Issues Affecting the 2010 Census”
“We are here today to talk about a very serious problem that could and should have easily been avoided. The government, as it has done in recent years, is currently working under a Continuing Resolution for the beginning of fiscal year 2008. This year the CR is set at fiscal year 2007 levels.
“Many agencies can make do with funding at the previous year’s level for a few weeks, but two years away from the 2010 Census, that is absolutely impossible for the Census Bureau. Census Bureau funding for FY2008 was slated to increase by 40% from last year according to the President’s budget request, in order to fund preparations for the decennial count.
“This is not a new problem.
“In 1998 and 1999, during the ramp-up to the 2000 Census, the government was funded by a CR at the beginning of those fiscal years. Those CRs made provisions for the increased expenses of ramping up to the census. While there may have been other issues that affected the 2000 census, funding was not one of them.
“The difference with this Census seems to be that the Bush Administration did not, for some inexplicable reason, ask the Congress to include routine language to exempt the Census Bureau from the flat-line funding.
“In 1998 and 1999, a Republican Congress included these exceptions for the increased ramp up costs of those years at the request of a Democratic Administration, even though the Census in those years was itself a very contentious issue. This makes the question why this Administration did not ask for an exception even more puzzling. Was this just incompetence?
“Let’s be clear. This is not a hearing about a potential problem or a threat but real, actual damage to the 2010 Census. The ability of the career professionals at the Census Bureau to carry out the Census and provide the country with the most accurate numbers has already been adversely affected. Without an immediate exception to get funding to the census, the accuracy of the 2010 Census will suffer even more dramatically.
“I hope we can hear from Director Kincannon exactly which components of the dress rehearsal and other key test exercises that have been part of every census since 1970 have already been curtailed and canceled.
“I also want to hear what the impact of the 400-person layoff from the contractor who designed the new handheld GPS devices will be. These devices were designed to improve efficiency and accuracy and save census costs by at least 1.5 billion dollars. As I understand, it means that the fielding of the device for the 2010 census is now uncertain.
“I have been told that the Census Bureau has already said that the scheduled test of group quarters at the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina will be canceled if the funds are not available before November 16th.
“I hope we can hear about how we got here, what we have lost already, what is in jeopardy, and what concrete steps can and should be taken to prevent any more damage. Along those lines, I do want to commend Commerce Secretary Gutierrez for acting quickly on the committee’s request to move almost $7 million dollars from commerce activities to the census. That is a very positive step, but what else can be done?
“Director Kincannon, when you resigned, you cited a lack of support for the Census as one of reasons you resigned. I am sorry to say that despite the Secretary’s effort in transferring 7 million, it sounds like the census is still not getting the support it needs. I hope you can tell us how we got here, and I am particularly interested to hear from OMB and Director Nussle as to what he thinks needs to be done.
“Thank you. I look forward to your testimony.”