Census Should Better Manage Population Count Risks, Watchdog Says

With the 2020 census less than a year away, the Census Bureau is still grappling with major concerns that could affect the population count — over 300 of them.

The warning comes from the Government Accountability Office, which said the agency has identified 360 active risks to the 2020 census. These include the agency’s mitigation and contingency plans for cybersecurity incidents, which didn’t contain key information necessary to manage the risk.

In September 2018, Census revamped the mitigation plan to include a new activity involving, among other things, leveraging cyber threat intelligence from other federal agencies. However, cyber threat intelligence is just one of many services outside agencies carry out, GAO noted.

“If the Bureau’s plan for mitigating cybersecurity risks to the census omits such key activities, then the Bureau is limited in its ability to track and assess those activities, and to hold individuals accountable for completing activities that could help manage cybersecurity risks,” the watchdog wrote.

GAO said the agency need to have clear deadlines for developing mitigation and contingency plans and those frameworks need to include all key attributes. Those in charge of risk management also needs to be held accountable for performing their duties.

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