The American Community Survey (ACS) and preparations for the 2020 decennial Census are vital to the success of the survey, opinion and marketing research profession in the U.S., since we cannot produce representative survey samples without them.

That is why MRA joined with our Census Project coalition partners on April 2 to call upon the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership to fully fund the Census Bureau with $1.211 billion in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).

In addition to their importance to the research profession, the decennial Census and the ACS are "crucial to spurring economic growth, guiding the prudent allocation of resources, and sustaining our democratic system of governance."

As explained in our Census Project letter:

"In FY2015, the Census Bureau will: evaluate field tests conducted in 2014; complete initial research and testing, and begin IT infrastructure and operational design development for the 2020 Census; and prepare for a national test of ACS content improvements. Offering an Internet self-response option, expanding use of administrative records to reduce the cost of nonresponse follow-up, and targeting pre-census address canvassing are three promising inn ovations that could modernize the census and promise greater cost - efficiencies. The 2015 census field test will focus on reengineering field operations, using administrative records and paradata to streamline the work of census takers—historically the mo st expensive part of the census.

The ACS, an ongoing part of the decennial census, is an essential test-bed for many promising census methods, serving as a cost - effective alternative to expensive field tests that were a hallmark of previous census planning. Important in its own right, the ACS is an integral part of both priv ate - and public-sector decision making, ensuring that our nation can meet the needs of its citizens in a fiscally-responsible way, g uided by objective, comparable and high - quality socio-economic data for all communities. In response to congressional guidance to minimize response burden, the Census Bureau is conducting a thorough review of ACS content to ensure that the survey only gathers data needed to implement federal programs and enf orce federal laws and regulations. The review includes examination of questions that respondents find problematic; the bureau is working to improve wording and to revise questions that some might view as objectionable (even though the data are needed to carry out federal programs). Adequate funding in FY2015 will ensure that the Census Bureau completes this important activity in a timely way.

Finally, we draw your attention to a sensible new initiative — the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing Initiative — that will replace unique, survey-specific systems with an integrated and standardized Census Bureau-wide system for day-to-day information technology and support needs across all program areas. The requested $34 million increase for Data Proc essing is an investment that the Census Bureau is likely to recoup many times over in the future.

We recognize the fiscal constraints your subcommittee faces and are confident that continued investment in complex, but necessary, reforms to census methods and operations will yield significant lifecycle cost savings. Failure to research and test new methods thoroughly, and to select a design framework and begin major systems acquisitions on time, could increase census costs by billions of dollars and put the accuracy of the nation’s largest peacetime activity at risk."