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Droegemeier and Dillingham Confirmed in Final Hours of 115th Congress

In the final hours of the 115th Congress on January 2, the Senate confirmed nearly 80 presidential nominations, including Kelvin Droegemeier to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Steven Dillingham to lead the U.S. Census Bureau. Dr. Droegemeier holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, has served on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma, as the university’s vice president for research, and as Vice Chair of the National Science Board. Dr. Dillingham holds a Ph.D. in political science and has served as the Director for the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps; the Director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics; and the Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Both nominations were welcomed by the scientific and statistical communities as non-controversial choices for these two important roles.

William Beach, who was nominated to lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and William Bryan, who was nominated to direct Science and Technology efforts at the Department of Homeland Security were not confirmed and now must have their nominations resubmitted by the President.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Census Reissues Request for Input on 2020 Data Products

The Census Bureau has reopened a request for comments published over the summer to encourage additional feedback on how data products from prior decennial censuses (including summary and detailed tables, national and state demographic profiles, and topical briefs) have been used. As part of the Bureau’s ongoing efforts to safeguard privacy, some data products released after previous decennial censuses may be eliminated. Stakeholder input is necessary to help the Bureau prioritize which data products are most important to maintain. More information, including specific questions of interest to the Bureau and a spreadsheet containing a complete list of data products and tables, is available in the original Federal Register notice published in July. Note: this request does not have any bearing on the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. Comments must be submitted by November 8, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 30), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Panel Considers Dillingham Nomination for Census Director

On October 3, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a confirmation hearing to consider the Trump Administration’s nomination of Steven Dillingham for Director of the Census Bureau (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Bureau has been without a permanent director since June 2017 and is in the middle of a significant ramp-up as it prepares to conduct the 2020 Census. Dillingham’s nomination is relatively uncontroversial, particularly when compared to the more overtly political candidates the Administration is reported to have considered. In his opening statement, Committee Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) called Dillingham “well-qualified,” and Ranking Member Claire McCaskill indicated after the hearing that she would support his nomination.

During the hearing, Dillingham avoided taking a stance on whether the 2020 Census should include a citizenship question in response to questions from both Republicans and Democrats. He also answered questions about keeping down the costs of the decennial census and strategies for reaching hard-to-count populations. The next step for Dillingham’s nomination is a vote by the full committee, which has not yet been scheduled. Following committee approval, the nomination must be approval by the full U.S. Senate. However, further action will not occur until after the November midterm elections since the Senate is in recess until then.

A recording of the hearing is available on the committee’s website.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 16), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

COSSA and 25 Science Organizations Call for Removal of Census Citizenship Question

In a joint comment to the Department of Commerce, COSSA and 25 other science and research organizations urged the Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census. The letter, which was submitted in response to a federal request for input on data collection activities related to the 2020 Census, focuses on the science and research implications of the citizenship question, arguing that “the inclusion of a question on citizenship in the 2020 Census will increase the burden on respondents, add unnecessary costs to the operation, and negatively impact the accuracy and integrity of one of the most valuable data resources the government produces.” COSSA previously released a statement opposing the question after it was announced. While formal approval of 2020 Census questionnaire by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is all but certain, several law suits to remove the question are currently pending.

In response to the same request for comments, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Council on National Statistics (CNSTAT) Task Force on the 2020 Census submitted a letter concluding that “the decision to add a question on citizenship status to the 2020 census is inconsistent with the ‘proper performance of the functions’ of the Census Bureau.” The CNSTAT letter is available on the National Academies’ website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Census Bureau Seeks Input on 2020 Data Products

In order to inform its plans for 2020 Census data products, the Census Bureau is soliciting feedback on how data products from prior decennial censuses (including summary and detailed tables, national and state demographic profiles, and topical briefs) have been used. According to the Federal Register notice, privacy concerns may lead the Bureau to reduce the amount of detailed data released to the public, so input on how to prioritize products for the 2020 Census is being sought. More information, including specific questions of interest to the Bureau and a spreadsheet containing a complete list of data products and tables, is available in the Federal Register. Comments must be submitted by September 17, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Steven Dillingham Nominated to Lead Census Bureau

Dr. Steven Dillingham was nominated on July 18 by President Trump to serve as the Director of the Census Bureau within the Department of Commerce. Dillingham currently directs the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the Peace Corps and previously led the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. He holds a Ph.D. in political science, as well as a law degree, an MBA, and a master’s degree in public administration. Given his record of leadership within the federal statistical system, Dillingham’s nomination is a welcome departure from the type of controversial, politically-motivated candidates the Administration was previously reported to have considered.

The job of the director of the Census Bureau has been empty for more than a year and, if confirmed by the Senate, Dillingham will direct the Bureau through a difficult time, as the 2020 Census quickly approaches and the Bureau is under heightened scrutiny for the controversial decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 questionnaire. Upon his confirmation, Dillingham would serve out the remainder of the current five-year term, ending in December 31, 2021.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 24), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Bill

On June 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill; the bill was marked up in subcommittee on June 12. The CJS bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and many other federal departments and agencies. The House Appropriations Committee passed its bill on May 17. Read COSSA’s full analysis of the House bill here.

At a Glance…

  • The Senate CJS bill includes $8.1 billion for NSF in FY 2019, which is 3.9 percent above the FY 2018 enacted level and 8 percent above the President’s request, but about 1 percent below the House’s proposal.
  • The Senate bill would provide NIJ with $42 million and BJS with $48 million, flat with the FY 2018 enacted level and 17 percent above the President’s request for both agencies.
  • The Senate bill would provide the Census Bureau with a total of $3.82 billion for FY 2019, which is slightly higher than the Administration’s request (+$21 million) but nearly $1 billion below the House’s proposal.

The next step for the bill is consideration by the full Senate. It remains to be seen whether/how Senate leadership will proceed with the individual appropriations bills this year, but with most of the Senate’s August recess cancelled, more time is available for considering the spending bills. However, the entire House is up for reelection and other priorities remain to be considered, so it is still likely that FY 2019 will begin under a continuing resolution (CR) on October 1, 2018.

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Census Bureau.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 26), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Census Issues Request for Comment on Decennial Data Collection

In compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Census Bureau issued a request for comments on the 2020 Census on June 8. The request provides an opportunity for feedback on the Bureau’s proposed information collection activities associated with the 2020 Census, including the addition of a citizenship question (which COSSA opposes). Comments must be submitted by August 7, 2018. More information is available in the Federal Register notice.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 12), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House Panel Passes FY 2019 Funding for NSF, Census, NIJ

On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Bill; the bill was marked up in subcommittee on May 9. The CJS bill serves as the vehicle for annual appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Census Bureau, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), and many other federal departments and agencies. The Senate has not yet released the details of its CJS bill.

At a Glance…

  • The House CJS bill includes $8.2 billion for NSF in FY 2019, which is 5.2 percent above the FY 2018 enacted level and 9.4 percent above the President’s request.
  • The House bill would provide NIJ with $44 million and BJS with $50 million, which is 4.8 and 4.2 percent, respectively, above the FY 2018 enacted level and 22 percent above the President’s request.
  • The House bill would provide the Census Bureau with $4.8 billion in discretionary funding for FY 2019. That amount is an increase of $2 billion compared to FY 2018 and $1 billion more than the amount requested by the Administration.
  • The House bill includes $99 million for the Economics and Statistics Administration, which houses BEA, flat with FY 2018 and $2 million below the President’s request.

The next step for the bill is consideration by the full House. However, with the August recess quickly approaching, and this being an election year, floor time is extremely limited. It remains to be seen whether/how House leadership will proceed with the individual appropriations bills this year. It is all but certain that FY 2019 will being on October 1, 2018 under a continuing resolution (CR).

Read on for COSSA’s analysis of the House Appropriations Committee’s proposals for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Census Bureau.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 29), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Congress Questions Commerce, Census on Citizenship Question

Members of Congress questioned Commerce Department and Census Bureau leadership last week over the decision to include a question on citizenship in the 2020 Census. COSSA objects to this decision and has issued a statement and action alert on this issue.

On May 8, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a progress report hearing on the 2020 Census. Witnesses included Earl Comstock, Director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning at the Commerce Department (testimony); Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the Census Bureau (testimony); David A. Powner and Robert Goldenkoff of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (testimony); and Justin Levitt, Associate Dean for Research at Loyola Law School, who previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Justice Department during the Obama Administration (testimony). Invited but not present at the hearing was the current Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, John Gore, who is reported to have spearheaded the request that the citizenship question be added to the Census. Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that he would issue a subpoena to compel Gore to appear before the Committee. A hearing featuring Gore was subsequently scheduled for Friday, May 18, 2018. Democrats on the Committee criticized the decision to add the citizenship question, questioning the necessity of the Justice Department’s request, and Ross’s conclusion that the question is “well-tested” because it has appeared on the American Community Survey. Committee Republicans generally defended the decision and were dismissive of concerns that adding the question without having tested it in a Census environment would add unnecessary risks to the accuracy and integrity of census data.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made his first appearance before Congress since announcing his decision to add the question to the decennial during a May 10 hearing on the Commerce Department budget in front of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Ross defended his decision in the face of sharp questioning from subcommittee Democrats, including Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-VT), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

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Posted in Issue 10 (May 15), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

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