UPDATE: $3 billion Census Bureau IT failure

UPDATE: $3 billion Census Bureau IT failure

Summary: The Census Bureau's $600 million custom-handheld initiative has finally been scrapped. The upshot: the 2010 census will now cost $3 billion more than planned. Guess those pesky handheld computers are a bit too complicated, so it's back to paper and pencil methods.Let's parse the official press release, translating government-speak into plain English.

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TOPICS: Mobility, CXO, Hardware
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UPDATE: $3 billion Census Bureau IT failure

The Census Bureau's $600 million custom-handheld initiative has finally been scrapped. The upshot: the 2010 census will now cost $3 billion more than planned. Guess those pesky handheld computers are a bit too complicated, so it's back to paper and pencil methods.

       Also see: Billion-dollar IT failure at Census Bureau

THE IT FAILURES ANALYSIS

Let's parse the official press release, translating government-speak into plain English.

Press release:

“The 2010 Census is one of the highest priorities and most important responsibilities of the Commerce Department.... The situation is unacceptable,” [Secretary U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M.] Gutierrez said. “Over the last month or so, a clear sense has emerged: to have a fully successful 2010 Census, we must immediately revamp some programs, refocus priorities and get on top of the challenges. The American people expect and deserve a timely and accurate Decennial Census and the Department and I won’t rest until they have it.”

Translation: We screwed up and everyone knows. Damn, this sucks.

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Press release:

Multiple internal and external reviews have identified continuing Census challenges across a number of areas, including adequate planning over key systems requirements, key technology requirements, specification of operational control system characteristics and functions and regional center technology infrastructure. Gutierrez outlined conceptually two major problem areas: the management and implementation of the technology needs of the FDCA effort; and non-FDCA related planning challenges and cost increases.

Translation: This thing was hosed from the beginning. I don't get paid enough to deal with this crap.

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Press release:

Gutierrez also announced that management and oversight of the 2010 Census would be strengthened and deepened both at the Census Bureau and at the Department.

Translation: Everyone's watching, so we gotta deal with it.

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Press release:

Gutierrez said that the Census Bureau will need an additional $2.2 to $3.0 billion in funding over the next five years to meet the replan needs....The life cycle cost for the Reengineered 2010 Census was estimated at $11.8 billion in the FY 2009 Budget Request, including $1.8 billion for the American Community Survey which replaced the long-form. The new estimated life cycle cost for the 2010 Census is $13.7 to $14.5 billion.

Translation: Glad we could bury this in the press release. Maybe no one'll really notice?

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Hardware

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2 comments
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  • Why do a census manually in the first place?

    The last manual census in my country (Denmark) was done in 1970. By that time we had put a Civil Registration System in place, which is safe and which is trusted by the public. Ever since 1980 census has been done by running a batch job across a mainframe system.

    A number of other countries are doing it the same way now.

    When is the United States going to enter the IT era in this area? It sounds like it could save you a lot of money.

    Michael Erichsen
    MichaelErichsen
  • Sanity gets re-asserted at the FCB

    As if there aren't demands enough on my tax dollars. Hopefully but they put a stake through its heart.

    If they just kept it simple (in-the-field data capture and transmittal), the project would have been done long ago. As this type of technology has been around for a long time.

    IBM SELECTRIC typewriter repairmen had these handhelds where they typed in data about the job, and beamed it to some data center. These handhelds were around the size of 8 D-size batteries. I mean, we're talking 20-30 years ago.

    UPS has had that huge tablet for years.

    But no, they needed it to be both a floor cleaner and a desert toping too.
    elizab