The 2020 Census is already shaping up as a potential debacle.
The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found the Census Bureau was behind schedule in recruiting workers, setting up partnerships with civic groups and testing the technology that will be used to conduct the constitutionally mandated survey, reported Rolling Stone.
The once-in-a-decade census has already begun in some parts of Alaska and will open nationwide April 1, but Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham assured House Committee on Oversight and Reform that everything would be fine.
“We are confident that we are on mission, on budget and on target,” Dillingham said. “The 2020 census is positioned for success.”
But the GAO’s report, which was made public during the same congressional hearing, hints that the Census could be plagued with the same type of tech issues as the Iowa caucuses.
Americans are being urged for the first time to participate in the survey online, and Census workers will log their in-person responses through a new mobile app, but the Census Bureau only last week to set up a backup system.
That in-house system, called Primus, was not tested during a trial run conducted in 2018, and the mobile app is experiencing issues that officials have not yet identified.
The online census operation would make an alluring target for hackers, but the GAO found the Census Bureau still hadn’t addressed 191 cybersecurity issues deemed “high risk” or “very high risk.
“Late design changes such as a shift from one system to another can introduce new risks during a critical moment,” said Nick Marinos, the GAO’s director of information technology, during the congressional hearing. “The bureau needs to quickly ensure that the system is ready and that contingency plans are finalized to reflect this change and fully tested before going live.”