Rep. Maloney’s Opening Statement for 2010 Census Progress Hearing

Jun 10, 2008
Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) delivered the following prepared remarks at today’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, “2010 Census: Assessing the Census Bureau’s Progress”:

“I want to commend Chairman Clay and Chairman Waxman for having this hearing, and I hope this Committee continues its vigilance over the management of the 2010 Census.  I must say that the more I hear about planning for the decennial, which is now just under 22 months away, the less confidence I have that this Administration is preparing in the right way.  The Census Bureau is hurriedly revising operations, facing enormous technical challenges, and tackling a huge hiring challenge with a workforce that all of a sudden may be double what they planned for during most of this decade.

“On top of these uncertainties, I read in the press and we hear in staff briefings that amazingly the Commerce Department is entertaining increasing the risks to the Census.  They are forging ahead against experienced advice with last minute additions of untested operations and even operations that have been tested and proven not to work.

“Director Murdock: the colossal failure of the FDCA contract means that you must somehow persuade even more Americans to mail back their Census forms.  You must do all you can to reduce the number of households where you have to make personal visits.  To me, that is the central challenge of your decennial redesign.

“I fear the Commerce Department is not confronting this challenge in a professional, scientific manner.  Therefore, I look forward to hearing from you today about where you personally stand on directives from the Commerce Department to turn the Census into a sweepstakes lottery; plans to experiment with an Internet response; the apparent decision to require fingerprinting of your enumerator workforce; and why the hugely successful Census in the Schools program from 2000 is being cut back.

“I would like to know where the professionals at the Census stand. 

“Do the professionals in the Census Bureau want a lottery? 

“Do the professionals in the Bureau think that adding a fingerprint requirement at this late stage is a good idea and will not impact Census performance?  If it is a good idea, why didn’t it get decided three years ago, so that it would not be a huge last minute add-on to your complicated preparations?

“It seems like the Administration is just pushing this into next year so they do not have to come up with paying for $340 million more in costs and they do not have figure out how to make it work.

“Director: weren’t duplicates a big problem in 2000?  Won't a lottery invite duplicate responses?  What will it cost to eliminate those duplicates, even if you are successful in doing so?

“It appears that these decisions are going forward without any scientific criteria or pre-set standards of evaluation.  For example, you relied upon the independent, professional judgment of the MITRE Corporation to make your decision on the FDCA contract.  Yet, you appear to be disregarding the recommendation of the very same MITRE Corporation that researched and concluded that an Internet response to the Census did not increase response rates, does not save money, and in fact increases the risk to the Decennial.  This makes no sense.

“So, what I am going to ask at this hearing today and going forward in this oversight process is this:  What standards are you using to evaluate any changes or additions to your original 2010 Census design?  What are the scientific criteria that you are relying upon to make an assessment of the feasibility of adding a new operation – or for that matter, in the case of Census in the Schools – for cutting back a proven, successful program from 2000?

“You are coming to this Congress and asking for a last minute 30 percent increase in Census funding, perhaps $3.5 billion dollars.  We want the best Census possible, one that counts everyone and is accurate.  However, Director Murdock, I have grave doubts that you are coming forward with a sensible plan that relies on proven, tested, and reliable operations that worked in 2000.  Instead, it appears that inexperienced political managers are cooking up some last minute, untested, and unscientific ideas that might sound good at a cocktail party but make no sense in the real world.”