A problem familiar to all federal agencies—hiring—is one of the top challenges remaining for the Census Bureau now just months away from the 2020 headcount, GAO has said.
The Bureau “has identified and met most of its initial milestones” and is generally on track to meet upcoming selected key dates” on matters such as opening offices, printing questionnaires and updating address lists and maps, a report said. The latter actually “was slightly more productive than anticipated,” GAO said, crediting the agency with carrying out recommendations it had made in an earlier report on that topic.
However, the Bureau has “experienced delays in hiring for its early operations, raising concerns about hiring for peak operations.” For example, it had hired about 9,000 fewer listers than its goal of 40,300 by its September deadline, forcing it to “fill the gap with listers who lived well outside of the area they were supposed to work—in some cases from a different state.” Similarly, the Bureau fell about 200 hires short of its goal of hiring 1,500 partnership specialists, who focus on establishing relationships to encourage participation.
The Bureau attributed the staffing shortfalls to two problems also familiar to other agencies: higher than expected attrition and delays in getting security clearances for those it hired.
“The problems the Bureau faced in these early operations with its ability to hire are an early warning for what may occur later in the census during non-response follow-up, when the Bureau intends to hire about 250,000 enumerators to follow up with households that did not initially respond to the census,” GAO said.