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The Census Bureau’s Recent History of Throwing Billions of Dollars Down the Drain

From Big Government:

$15 billion. That’s the budget of the 2010 US Census. Where to begin with how it has been misspent? When we look back at the past ten years, we can see how the Census Bureau is an institution in need of major reforms because poor work has been rewarded and PR spinsters have been left running the show to make it seem like everything is hunky-dory.

The 2010 Census is currently in the non-response follow-up (NRFU) stage of operations (to track down individuals who did not mail back their 2010 Census forms on time), which is the largest and most expensive stage of the 2010 Census. 635,000 workers are involved in this operation, and it is the largest peacetime civilian hiring effort in the history of the United States. Yet this operation has been plagued by failure from the get-go. Let’s first take a look at the now infamous handheld computer debacle:

In 2006 the Census Bureau signed a contract with the Florida-based Harris Corporation to design handheld computers (HHCs) that would be used for the 2010 Census. This contract was initially worth $600 million. Yet because of poor directions and incompetence from Census Bureau officials about what they desired and a the failure on on the part of Harris Corp. to determine what specifications the government needed, the designs that were used for this project were flawed from the get-go.

Rather than creating a “fixed price contract,” the government created a “cost-plus contract” that essentially gave the Harris Corp. a blank check to fiddle around as they wished to the tune of $600 million. And, they fiddled and fiddled and fiddled and failed.

So what did the Census Bureau do to correct this problem? They gave the same company an extra $200 million in 2008 and told them to try it again. Ultimately, Harris delivered some handheld computers that were able to be used during the Address Canvassing phase of 2010 Census operations, but employees have repeatedly claimed that these devices were extremely faulty, slow, and at times completely non-functional. (Had the Census Bureau decided to equip its employees with special versions of the Blackberry or I-Phone, such a debacle would have been avoided.)

Read the rest at Big Government.

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