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Coburn Opposes Additional Money for the Census Bureau

Location: Washington, DC

Coburn Opposes Additional Money for the Census Bureau

Attached letter expresses disappointment with Director Kincannon's plea for more money despite lack of fiscal transparency

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today sent a letter to the Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, C. Louis Kincannon, in which Coburn expressed concern that Kincannon was requesting additional Census funds despite having failed to provide Congress with proper justifications for previous requests. Coburn chairs the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee that has sole authorizing jurisdiction over the Census Bureau.

"It is the height of arrogance for the Census Bureau to threaten Congress with huge cost increases when it is unable to explain how it uses the money it already has. Until Census makes a stronger case for why it needs more money, I will do everything I can to make sure the budget cuts in the House and Senate stand," Coburn said.

Coburn convened a Federal Financial Management Subcommittee hearing on June 6 titled: "2010 Census, Off-Line and Off-Budget: The High Cost of Low-Tech Counting" to examine why cost projections for the 2010 Census have risen so dramatically over the 2000 Census despite massive financial investments in technology.

In addition to expressing concern that the Census Bureau couldn't justify its budget, Coburn was mystified that the Census Bureau had done almost nothing to move toward an online census. Coburn said after the hearing, "In an age when people shop, bank and file their taxes online, the census is lagging behind, needlessly adding to its already high costs."

August 4, 2006

The Honorable C. Louis Kincannon
U.S. Census Bureau
FOB 3, Rm 2049
Washington, D.C. 20233

Dear Director Kincannon:

As Chairman of the Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Census Bureau, I was deeply concerned to learn last week about testimony you provided to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies indicating that the cost of the 2010 Census may rise by an additional $1 billion beyond what is currently estimated. I am writing to ask that you provide this Subcommittee with a detailed explanation of this potentially enormous cost increase.

As you remember, on June 6, 2006, this Subcommittee held a hearing to examine why the 2010 Census is estimated to be $11.3 billion, or $5 billion more than the 2000 Census. I was not completely satisfied by the answers I received and came away from the hearing concerned that the Census Bureau does not have firm grasp over its long-term financial planning. The Government Accountability Office expressed similar concerns and stated that poor planning may lead to costs for the 2010 Census to soar well beyond the $11.3 billion estimate. Unfortunately, it seems that these concerns were well founded.

Your testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee stated that cutting the Bureau's fiscal year 2007 budget by $53.3 million would potentially increase costs for the 2010 Census by $1 billion. Based on your previous testimony before my subcommittee regarding the Bureau's ability to manage its finances, I am skeptical that the agency could not operate with a slightly smaller budget.

I would ask that you provide this Subcommittee with a detailed explanation of why you believe an overall budget cut of $53.3 million (less than 0.5%) could lead to an overall budget increase of $1 billion (nearly 9%). Since a key finding of our June hearing, and of GAO, was that financial planning at the Bureau has been too poor to accurately project future costs, please provide an explanation as to how the Bureau was able to develop such a quick and accurate cost projection based on the loss of $55M between June and now. Please provide this information by close of business on Friday, September 1, 2006 so that Senators may have this important information prior to return of the Senate to consideration of the Science, State, Justice, Commerce appropriations bill in the Fall.


Tom Coburn, M.D.
Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management,
Government Information and
International Security

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