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Handheld Problems Could Affect Census

Handheld Problems Could Affect CensusThe next census is still two years away, but already there are worries that delays could be caused by cost overruns in a program that will employ handheld devices and a secure network to collectdata, the Washington Post has reported.   The wireless handheld devices would be employed for Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA), the collectionof data from those who don’t return census forms, then the network would automatically update records in field offices.   But congressional leaders have been briefed by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Steve Murdock, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, that the program to purchase half amillion of the devices has already run $50 million over its original $600 million budget.   The Census Bureau needs to test the devices this spring, but people are still figuring out just whatthis technology will do, and the need to send data securely has added to costs.   A spokesman for Mitre, a government research program, criticized the proceedings, saying the program "lacksa leader with the experience, stature and passion to make FDCA successful. The Census Bureau has a lack of personnel with large-scale IT program-management experience."   The Census Bureauhas claimed they if they go back to the old pen-and-paper routine, it will add $1 billion to census costs, which are already $12 billion.  

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