Statement of the Hon. Carolyn B. Maloney Hearing on the Status of Census 2000 Operations
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and welcome again Dr. Prewitt. I would like to thank you Dr. Prewitt for taking time out of what must be an incredibly busy schedule to appear before us today. As the Census Bureau begins the most intensive operations of the 2000 Census, Congress and the American public need to stay informed on the progress of the largest peace-time mobilization in American history. I'm happy to say that from reading your testimony Dr. Prewitt, it appears that the 2000 Census operations are on schedule and as of today there are no major problems.
A year ago, many prophets of doom questioned the likely success of the 2000 Census. While we are far from done, I think we can all take pride in the excellent work of the career professionals at the Census Bureau in successfully meeting the major milestones to date.
Dr. Prewitt, some might have scoffed if you had appeared before this committee a year ago and predicted that today the Census Bureau would have all 520 local Census offices up and running, fully equipped, with computers and telecommunications installed and operational; that the Master Address File of 120 million addresses, which may be the most complete ever due to improved processes, including LUCA and new construction programs, would be completed and in use; that one of my favorite initiatives, the Census in the Schools Program, would have exceeded its original goals and sent over 1.3 million teaching kits to schools around the nation; that the telephone questionnaire assistance centers would be open, running and fully operational; that the data capture centers and the software they use would be tested and already processing forms; that questionnaires would already be delivered in rural areas; that questionnaires would already be filed thru the Internet; that over 90,000 partnerships between the Census and cities, towns, businesses, and churches would be up and running; that the highly acclaimed paid advertising campaign would now be going at full gear. In the interest of time I will not go on with this list much longer, but I do want to mention my new favorite census promotional tool, the Census Promotional Tour Bus is on the road and educating people across the country. In the future, I am hopeful we can have 20 of these useful tools in each region.
I am sure there are some, even in this room, who would have well, let's be polite, questioned you for being overly optimistic.
More importantly, even a few months ago, if you would have told this committee that recruiting would be above target and going well, I can only imagine what some would have said. While there are places in the country that have recruiting problems, on a national level recruiting is above target. Given the Clinton/Gore prosperity our nation is currently experiencing, with its historically low unemployment levels, the success of the Bureau's recruiting efforts is all the more remarkable.
I don't want to imply that things are perfect because there is still a lot of work to be done, and we know there will be problems. The recent mishap with the addressing of the notification letter is an example. I would like to mention that I received my letter in the mail. In fact, here it is. I am pleased that the Post Office reports that there have been no operational problems with this mailing, and they should be commended for the extra effort taken to ensure that all 120 million letters arrived on time.
On the whole, we are in as good a shape as one could hope given our recent history. And given the fact that the Census Bureau had to revamp its program only last year integrate over 1.6 billion dollars worth of additional effort as a result of litigation by the opponents of modern statistical methods. In fact, I would say that one reason the Census is on track as of today is because many of us in Congress, and President Clinton, resisted the efforts of some to micro-manage and left it to you and your staff to move forward as best you could given the difficult assignment you were given.
I would only hope that as we proceed and problems develop that we can keep all of the people looking over your shoulder, this Committee, the Monitoring Board, the GAO, the IG, the National Academy, and the advisory groups- that we can keep them over your shoulder and not in your lap disrupting your job. Mr. Chairman, I know you share my concern that we not harm the Census with over zealous oversight. While we should conduct oversight, we cannot afford to be so overpowering that the staff of the Census cannot get their job done.
Again, as we proceed, there will be problems big and small, but I would remind everyone that this is a massive, complicated process. I read in today's Washington Post a story about the response to the advance letter and that a few hundred people out of the 120 million contacted complained they were confused about the postage-paid, envelope included. Well for those who know what they are reading that story is good news. 33,000 envelopes were returned from people requesting language forms on the first day. In America, to have a few hundred people call and complain about a mailing to 120 million people is pretty darn good, especially if it guarantees Americans with limited English language skills can respond to the Census.
As I said, Mr. Chairman, I am happy to learn that the time-tables and tasks for the 2000 Census are currently on track. I look forward to hearing the details of the many Census operations from our witness, Director Prewitt.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.