2020 Census Plans Looks to Leverage Both Commercial and Custom Solutions

Published: June 01, 2016

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As the Census Bureau prepares for the 2020 survey and targets $5.2 billion in savings, the agency must keep direct planning as well as the development of supporting capabilities on track.

In a recent blog post, Census Bureau Director John Thompson discussed the new decisions related to 2020 Census’s data collection and processing systems. To meet their data collection and processing needs, the Census Bureau will be taking a hybrid approach to acquisition, combining a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) system with custom developed solutions. The move is expected to provide the tools and resources to address requirements associated with the upcoming 2020 census and builds the infrastructure to support future censuses and surveys. Describing the thinking behind the decision, Thompson points to an assessment and analysis of commercial capabilities associated with the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) program.

Launched in 2014, the CEDCaP program aims to streamline costs and to bolster the agency’s analytical abilities by delivering an enterprise solution for data collection and processing. Following market research (including a request for information and vendor demonstrations), in September 2015, the Census Bureau released a request for quotations (RFQ) for commercial platforms and software that could meet the needs of the CEDCaP effort. All five of the vendors that submitted proposals in response to the RFQ were awarded purchase orders for product licenses. This led to an initial phase of testing and evaluation for all five of the COTS products.

Eventually, the Census Bureau was able to narrow the field to two vendors that met all of the programmatic requirements. These two products were subjected to additional capability assessment an analysis (along with internal solutions). Ultimately, one COTS platform was selected to support the hybrid approach, which includes buying a COTS solution to support half of the CEDCaP capabilities and using in-house capabilities for the remaining half. Expecting to deliver mature capabilities in time for the 2020 census, the Commerce Department’s FY 2017 budget request provides increased contractor addressable funding for CEDCaP by 36 percent ($18.4 million) from FY 2016 to 2017.

At the beginning of May 2016, well in to the CEDCaP program’s exploration of commercial capabilities, the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General announced that it was beginning an audit of the CEDCaP program. The audit will be evaluating the program’s use of applicable standards and methodologies for enterprise architecture and system development as well as planning for scalability, reliability, and security. While the capabilities delivered via the CEDCaP initiatives will be significant, the business architecture for the 2020 will include other elements. A memorandum on the 2020 Census Business Solution Architecture, issued in late May 2016 on the heels of the publication of the CEDCaP COTS Capability Assessment and Analysis, notes that the overall support for the 2020 Census program will combine CEDCaP and non-CEDCaP systems.