Subject:        Census 2000 News Alert
   Date:         Mon, 9 Mar 1998 19:34:39 -0500

     Following is the copy from the most recent News alert.  If you have
     questions, please call me at 202/326-8728 (KERI).
     March 9, 1998
     Battle Over Census Funding Heats Up
Commerce Secretary William Daley presented the Administration's Fiscal Year 1999 budget request to congressional appropriators last week, and promptly ran into a wall of skepticism in the House about the Census Bureau's ability to carry out its 2000 census plan.

While Secretary Daley called the census "the most important job we will undertake in this Department," members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and The Judiciary appeared more interested in other Commerce programs at their March 4 hearing.  The only census-related question during the cordial session came from Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH), who asked whether an agreement could be reached with the House over the use of sampling.

The Secretary emphasized that the department remains "firmly committed" to using sampling methods as part of the census, but noted that the Administration included $36 million in its Fiscal Year 1999 budget request to prepare for a non-sampling census, in the event that Congress or the courts prevent the use of those methods.

The atmosphere was markedly less friendly at a hearing the next day before the House's funding panel, chaired by Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY).  Questions about the design and cost of the 2000 census dominated the session, as Chairman Rogers and the Secretary engaged in a sometimes-combative exchange about whether the Census Bureau was taking adequate steps to prepare for a census that doesn't include sampling methods.  Rogers reminded Daley that Congress had called for a "dual track" process in the Fiscal Year 1998 appropriations bill, to continue evaluting the Bureau's current plan, which includes sampling, while also preparing for a "traditional" census that does not rely on sampling to complete the count or correct for under-and overcounting.

The Secretary acknowledged that if Congress or the courts prohibit sampling, the Bureau would need substantially more than the $36 million it has requested for Fiscal Year 1999 to ready a non-sampling census.  Additional funds would be needed to open and staff local census offices earlier than the Bureau has currently planned, as well as to start outreach and promotional activities sooner.  The Administration's total funding request for 2000 census activities next year is $848 million, more than twice this year's funding level of $390 million.

Chairman Rogers called the Bureau's 2000 census plan "a mess," saying  it is too complex and untested.  He cited the recent letter from the  Commerce Department's Inspector General to Senator John McCain (R-AZ),  and said that the plan couldn't be implemented without going over  budget or sacrificing quality.  Rogers also said, however, that a  1990-style census was unacceptable.  Tempers flared when the chairman  asked to see plans for 2000 that both included and didn't include the  use of sampling.  When the Secretary responded that the plan for 2000  was a work in progress, Rogers repeatedly told him, "We paid for it.  We want it."  The chairman gave the Secretary until April 22 to produce a plan for the census, and said the subcommittee would  reconvene the hearing at that time.

Census Bureau Director Search:  While the White House continues its  search for a candidate to succeed Dr. Marty Riche as Census Bureau  Director, support for Dr. Barbara Everitt Bryant continues to grow in  Congress.  All eighteen Democratic members of the New York House delegation sent a letter to Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, urging the  President to nominate the former director, who took the position only  four months before the 1990 count started and served until the end of  the Bush Administration.  Eight members of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus sent a similar letter in support of Dr. Bryant's  nomination, as did eleven members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Dr. Bryant recommended a statistical adjustment of the 1990 census  numbers after a post-census survey showed that the undercount had  increased from 1980 and that overcounts also were a significant  problem affecting accuracy.  She was overruled by then-Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, but subsequently set in motion -- at the urging of Congress and the General Accounting Office -- a research and development program aimed at fundamental reform of the census.

Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be directed to TerriAnn Lowenthal at (202) 434-8756 or, by e-mail, at <>.  Please feel free to circulate this information to colleagues and other interested individuals.

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