The nomination of Dr. Steven Dillingham to be director of the U.S. Census Bureau will be considered in the Senate on October 3. The position has been vacant since John Thompson resigned last summer.
As explained in a September 28, 2018 letter from the Census Project coalition: "The need for strong, decisive leadership at the Census Bureau, particularly at this juncture, cannot be overstated."
The 2020 Census is just around the corner and "the Bureau must have a highly qualified and respected director in place as soon as possible. If confirmed in a timely fashion, a new director will have to quickly learn from the results of the 2018 End-to-End Readiness Test (which, as a result of recent funding shortfalls was reduced to a small test in Providence, RI this spring) and oversee final design decisions and preparations for the 2020 Census. The Census Director also must strengthen and streamline the American Community Survey (ACS), formerly known as the “Long Form,” which updates census (socioeconomic, demographic, and housing) data throughout the decade."
Federal law includes "specific statutory guidance on what to seek in a Census Bureau Director. According to the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-166), the Census Bureau Director have "demonstrated ability in managing large organizations and experience in the collection, analysis, and use of statistical data.” As census stakeholders, members of the Census Project know that the next director should also be someone with: (1) respect in the statistical community; (2) the ability to interact effectively with Congress, the Administration, and census stakeholders in the public and private sectors; and (3) understand the National Academies’ Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency."
Dillingham was most recently director of the Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning for the U.S. Peace Corps. In previous GOP White Houses, he ran the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. He has graduate degrees in law and public administration from the University of South Carolina and an undergraduate degree in political science from Winthrop University.
The Administration may have delayed this hearing in order to avoid having to publicly deal with the most contentious of Census-related issues, like the addition of a citizenship question (a move opposed by the Insights Association and more than 250,000 other groups, according to estimates from the Leadership Conference). However, we have encouraged the committee to look at a broad range of concerns. As suggested by the Census Project, those concerns include: "the addition of an untested citizenship question, which threatens to diminish response rates and increase the costs of conducting the 2020 Census; a potentially higher undercount in rural areas and small towns given the cancellation of the 2017 field tests in remote areas and native reservations and the 2018 End-toEnd Readiness Test site in West Virginia; cybersecurity and IT challenges the nation’s first digital decennial census poses; and a myriad of budget and operational dilemmas still plaguing the 2020 Census."
The Insights Association will be watching the hearing on Wednesday with great interest.