Census field data contract to be reworked

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has said the Census Bureau is renegotiating its contract with Harris for the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) portion of the 2010 census.

He said the bureau will move some aspects of the contract to a fixed-price basis instead of keeping the entire agreement on a cost-plus basis.

"We're trying to parcel out as much as we can," Gutierrez said during a hearing April 15 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Harris contract includes handheld computers originally meant to be used for conducting follow-up surveys with people who do not respond to the census questionnaire they receive in the mail. The bureau has decided to return to paper for those surveys.

Officials had awarded Harris a five-year, $595 million contract for FDCA in March 2006. Due to changing requirements, the agency will pay $1.3 billion for the contract. However, Harris stood to receive $1.9 billion if the bureau used the handheld units as planned.

Gutierrez said many parts of the Harris contract include infrastructure development or materials orders that could easily be switched from the cost-plus basis. He set a deadline of the end of summer for the renegotiation, but few other details about the contract surfaced at the hearing.

Wade-Hahn Chan writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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