The Census Bureau hasn't addressed a multitude of security issues, a GAO official testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The Census Bureau hasn't addressed a multitude of security issues, a GAO official testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Worries about the integrity of the 2020 Census intensified Tuesday when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller General Eugene Dodaro told a Senate committee that “difficulties” securing IT systems could leave “sensitive data that needs to be safeguarded” vulnerable to attack and manipulation.

“As of last August, for example, only four of the 43 systems that they're planning to use had completed development and testing,” Dodaro told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recounting the findings in a report the watchdog agency released Tuesday. “In addition to the costs, I'm concerned about the security of the IT systems, particularly with the use of the Internet response.”

He said people could possibly “misuse the Internet response rate to potentially make the count be, potentially skewed, or there could be other mischief.”

The GAO report found that the Census Bureau, under the umbrella of the Commerce Department, “has not addressed several security risks and challenges to secure its systems and data, including making certain that security assessments are completed in a timely manner and that risks are at an acceptable level.” 

Starting right before the 2010 Census, the agency has “made 84 recommendations specific to the 2020 Census” to resolve its many issues, Dodaro reported, but 36 have not yet been implemented.

Dodaro called for Congress to increase its oversight of the census over the next 18 months. “That's the window,” he said, “that you have to lock down the procedures for the 2020 Census, otherwise it'll be too late.”

The Commerce Department recently refigured the cost of the project bumping it up more than $3 billion to $15.6 billion, including $1.2 billion in contingency funds to cover risk.