The U.S. Census Bureau director, John H. Thompson, has resigned as the federal agency gears up to conduct the 2020 census. This was announced by the Department of Commerce and comes as the bureau is facing a funding crisis. Thompson, who was appointed director in 2013 and who has worked at the bureau for more than two decades, will officially leave on June 30. No reasons were given for the decision by Thompson whose five-year term ended last December. Expectations were high that he was going to extend his stay for at least a year.
Earlier in April, the 2020 census congressional budget allocation was viewed as being inadequate. And only a couple of days ago, Thompson had revealed to legislators that a new electronic system for collecting data would exceed the cost estimates by close to 50%.
“It’s like two trains going down the track toward each other, with Republicans decrying the budget overrun and Democrats saying the census has been underfunded. This puts the census in the crosshairs both ways,” Census Project co-director, Phil Sparks, said of the congressional hearing which was held on May 3.
Typically the decennial tally requires an increase in spending as the date approaches. Most of this money goes into publicity, hiring and testing. Congress, however, only gave approval for $1.47 billion in this fiscal year. This was 10% less than what had been requested by the Obama administration. For the 2018 fiscal year, White House has proposed to allocate the bureau $1.5 billion, a figure which experts have slammed as being inadequate.
To make matters worse, the census bureau had been counting on the implementation of a system that would have relied more extensively on an electronic method of data collection which would have saved costs. This came about after Congress informed the bureau that budgetary allocations for the 2020 census would have to be either on par with what was spent in the 2010 census or below. But during the May 3 congressional hearing, Thompson revealed that while it had been estimated in 2013 that the new system would cost $656 million, the figure had since then been revised and the system would cost $965 million.
While Thompson’s successor was not immediately announced, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Commerce disclosed that there would be an acting director appointed in the next couple of days to serve until the position was permanently filled.