Only three years out from the next national census, the Census Bureau faces numerous challenges to carrying out its plans designed to hold down costs and make the process more efficient, GAO has told a House committee.

Those plans include to use new and modified IT systems, re-engineer its field operations, use data from other agencies as a supplement, and increase use of the Internet in the decennial headcount.

On the IT aspect alone, a witness said at a hearing, there are issues with managing internal coordination, scheduling and costs. “In addition, the Bureau needs to address several security risks and challenges to secure its systems and data, including ensuring that security assessments are completed in a timely manner,” GAO said, noting that end-to-end testing is set to begin as soon as August.

GAO added that the overall cost estimates for the census–$12.5 billion, up $200 million from the cost of the 2010 census–“cannot be considered reliable” because they fail to meet best practices in making such estimates.

The statement reflects GAO’s long-standing concerns about the census that has kept the project on its high-risk list, and follows similar recent warnings about readiness for the next census from the IG’s office of the Commerce Department, the Census Bureau’s parent.