In a letter on Friday, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., questioned Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, over how nearly $5 billion in IT costs are being managed by the Bureau. His concerns come as IT costs grew by $1.56 billion between October 2015 and December 2017.

Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, cites a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Aug. 30, 2018, and says the Bureau faces “challenges managing and overseeing the IT programs, systems, and contracts supporting the 2020 Census.” He also raises the alarm that in June of 2018, 33 out of the 58 positions in the Bureau tasked with overseeing the “key technology integration contractor,” which is the Bureau’s largest contract, were vacant. Enzi noted that these vacancies “diminish the Bureau’s ability to conduct oversight of this important contractor, which could lead to additional costs, performance issues, and scheduling delays.”

Enzi again references the GAO report and says that the vacancies have already compromised the Bureau’s schedule and budget. GAO found that “the Bureau delayed key IT milestones, and several systems experience problems during the 2018 end-to-end test that must be addressed.” As a result, GAO notes that “the Bureau has compressed its timelines and has rushed or ignored important security and risk assessments putting these IT systems at risk of not functioning or being vulnerable to security threats. Addressing these challenges will likely lead to further increased costs, such as additional staff or new technology.”

In the letter, Enzi asks the Bureau to provide an update on any progress it has made in filling IT oversight positions. Additionally, he asks what the Bureau’s plans are for ensuring that IT systems are fully tested on time and that any security weaknesses are addressed before systems are deployed. He also asks about what disaster-recovery measures are in place to ensure that critical IT systems and infrastructure remain available in the event of a significant cyberattack or service disruption. He requested that Dillingham provide his answers, in writing, by Feb. 15, 2019.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.