Ross Wilkers

COMPANIES

Beyond the Census: How T-Rex Solutions views that work as a platform

Not even a pandemic can stop the 2020 Census from taking place this year as the Constitution mandates it happen every 10 years, although today’s mechanics certainly look different compared to prior editions.

This was already supposed to be the first Census to let respondents participate online or via phone in addition to the traditional paper format. But the COVID-19 crisis inevitably means that like most other things in life, the Census will lean heavier on technology than envisioned as will the takers in the field and other volunteers at work.

From there, could the Census Bureau also be a lighthouse example to other agencies on modernization both in terms of need and desire?

“Agencies are coming to realize that they need to modernize their IT infrastructure to facilitate mission success, and the Census Bureau performed an IT modernization project on steroids,” said T-Rex Solutions CEO Seth Moore.

Greenbelt, Maryland-based T-Rex’s largest program is with the Census Bureau through a contract awarded five years ago for broad systems engineering and integration work, which continues a relationship between company and agency that started in 1999.

Moore pointed to how the Constitution mandates the Census be done -- missing out on or not doing it on schedule is simply not an option.

Reason number two for the steroid imagery is the scale of the Census and hence the responsibility of the agency overseeing it, according to Moore. Consider that more than 300 million residents will respond to the Census, which is not unlike tax filing season in that everyone in the U.S. is a participant to some extent.

“We were expecting up to 600,000 concurrent users, which is a significant amount of people on the system at the same time, and we’re also supporting over 400,000 field workers who have handheld devices,” Moore told me.

Most of us have already or will likely submit our information through the Census.gov website or via phone. Paper is still an option. But even then, Census takers and other volunteers are using smartphones and specialized software in their work.

“Those handheld devices host the applications that are going to be used to collect residents’ information that way,” Moore said.

As far as T-Rex is concerned, the Census Bureau contract has options to extend through September 2023 for continued support to that agency so the work does not sunset overnight. But T-Rex wants to take its work in areas such as digital transformation, cloud computing optimization and cybersecurity beyond the Census Bureau.

It is the cloud in particular that COVID-19 and the pandemic’s pushing of society to a largely work-from-home setup that agencies are eyeing in particular as the way of the future, Moore said.

Back to the example of tax filing season, Moore pointed to the Internal Revenue Service as one agency with the kind of mission profile and customer service environment that presents a business case for cloud hosting.

The IRS spins up much of its IT infrastructure once per year to handle the hundreds of millions of tax return filings. In another example Moore offered, the Federal Emergency Management Agency spins resources up and down depending on when and where large-scale disasters happen.

If, when and how those agencies and others further embrace the cloud, T-Rex stands ready to carry forward what it is doing for the Census today and point to that kind of experience in large-scale programs. And when it's time to get ready for and conduct the 2030 Census, Moore said T-Rex hopes to be a part of that as well.

“We’ve done it now at a size, scale and complexity that is at or above what is going to be required by the other agencies, so I think that gives us a credential that should help us be successful in continuing to be a major player in this market,” Moore said.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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