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Census Bureau Budget Update—Investment Now Will Save Taxpayer Dollars Later

Fri Mar 14 2014
John H. Thompson
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I’m pleased to announce that the Census Bureau’s FY 2014 appropriation of $944 million allows us to turn the corner from the program reductions we’ve had to make over the last couple of years. With this funding, we can advance our agenda of innovation and increase the amount of data that we provide to the nation.

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Data are the fuel that power the 21st century economy and America’s dynamic economy require equally dynamic measures to capture and disseminate those changes. Unleashing more data is a key priority in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”

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This funding allows us to continue a robust 2020 Census Research and Testing Program. We will test key design changes so that we can conduct a 2020 Census that contains costs while also maintaining quality.

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The FY 2014 budget also allows us to finish 2012 Economic Census data collection activities (including the Survey of Business Owners) and begin releasing important data and statistics. Finally, it provides critical funding for the release of monthly, quarterly, and annual economic and demographic data upon which critical measures of the economy depend – including Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and other principal economic indicators, including the Supplemental Poverty Measure.

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The good news is that the President’s FY 2015 budget aligns with the FY 2014 appropriations. Our FY 2015 request supports critical, targeted investments in research, testing and IT infrastructure. Millions in investment in research, testing and enterprise systems will save billions in the 2020 Census and result in smart system solutions across the enterprise. The budget request also supports continued investments in the comprehensive and relevant data that are necessary for informed decision-making by the private sector, public sector and individuals. These investments are balanced with efficiencies and attention to reduced burden for those who respond to our surveys.

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FY 2015 will be the final year of funding for the early research, planning, development and testing for the 2020 Census, and is the first year of funding operations and infrastructure investment to incorporate the results of the research and testing program. The program will focus on completing research and testing needed to make major design decisions required to contain the cost of the 2020 Census by the end of FY15. The funding in this year’s budget allows us to conduct the necessary research to re-engineer the way we conduct the 2020 Census.

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Using information already provided to the government to gather data on households that do not initially respond to the census; reengineering field operations; leveraging the Internet to make it more convenient for people to fill out their questionnaire; and developing new methods to ensure we have an up to date address list are all promising, cost-saving areas.

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We are optimistic that the results of this research have the potential to save the American taxpayers more than $5 billion.

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The FY 2015 budget request also supports a Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing Initiative that will create integrated and standardized systems, replacing unique, survey-specific systems. This solution will work not only for the 2020 Census, but also for all of our survey operations.

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The budget supports major data releases for the 2012 Economic Census, which are the basis for key economic indicators like BEA’s Gross Domestic Product. It also supports planning for the 2017 Economic Census and Census of Governments.

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Finally, the FY 2015 budget contains funding to enhance the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database. The improvements will enable the database to provide more information about business innovation and entrepreneurship. Greater access to new data products will increase our understanding of innovation in the U.S. economy.

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As you can see, these are exciting times for the Census Bureau. Much work needs to be done to accomplish these proposed improvements, but all of us at the Bureau will be working diligently with our partners at the Department of Commerce to communicate the importance of fully funding the FY 2015 request so that we can keep moving toward our ambitious goals. Census data touches every American and informs daily business decisions, so we are focused, as we must be, on ensuring American tax dollars are invested wisely in the Census Bureau’s current and future efforts.

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