With the possibility of the U.S. Census Bureau receiving more than $11 billion in taxpayer funds over the next 20 months, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Acting Secretary Otto Wolff requesting details on how the funds will be used effectively and efficiently.

The letter is the latest in Senator Collins’ oversight efforts of stimulus funding for programs that received significant funding increases under the stimulus bill or under the stimulus bill and the fiscal year 2009 omnibus. Earlier this month, the Committee held a hearing on oversight of stimulus funds in which federal oversight officials testified on measures they are taking to track the spending and help prevent fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

The text of the letter follows:

March 24, 2009

Otto Wolff

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear Acting Secretary Wolff:

If the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget request is fully-funded, the Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce will be charged with effectively managing the expenditure of more than $11 billion over the next 20 months. This funding includes $1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), $3.1 billion in FY 2009 appropriations, and approximately $7 billion that the President included in his fiscal year 2010 budget request. I urge you to develop and implement an effective plan to ensure the appropriate expenditure of these funds and to help prevent further waste and mismanagement within the Census Bureau.

With the 2010 Census fast approaching, many operational and organizational challenges remain. The decennial census is a complex and extensive operation, and the Bureau acknowledged in 2008 that it was experiencing mission critical problems with its management and testing of key information technology systems. These problems resulted in a dramatic increase in the life-cycle cost of the upcoming 2010 Census and also raised questions about the Bureau’s ability to effectively complete this constitutionally mandated exercise.

To aid the Census Bureau in successfully conducting the 2010 Decennial Census, Congress provided $3.1 billion for FY 2009, an increase of $1.7 billion over FY 2008, as well as $1 billion in the Recovery Act for the Census Bureau. These funds must be spent effectively and with transparency and accountability.

Accordingly, I urge the Commerce Department to develop and implement a plan to ensure the appropriate spending of the FY 2009 funds, the stimulus funds, and the funds requested in the President’s proposed FY 2010 budget. I specifically would appreciate knowing how the Census Bureau plans to spend this funding; the objectives and goals of the planned spending; the spending justification and performance measures used to achieve identified goals; and how the Department of Commerce plans to maintain proper controls to ensure these taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

Please provide an update to my Committee staff no later than April 10 on the steps the Department of Commerce intends to take to develop the requested plan and a timeline for plan implementation. Thank you again for your time and attention to this important matter.


Susan M. Collins

Ranking Member

Cc: Thomas L. Mesenbourg Jr.

Acting Director

U.S. Department of Commerce

Bureau of the Census

Washington, DC 20233