Page 10 - FCW, July30, 2016
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1.7 billion miles were traveled by NASA’s Juno spacecraft before it reached Jupiter
on July 4
GAO doesn’t trust census financials
WHAT: An announcement
that the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity will hold a Proposers’ Day on Aug. 2 to provide information on a program that will use sensors to evaluate employee performance.
WHY: Working in the intelligence community can be psychologi- cally demanding. IARPA, the IC’s futuristic research arm, wants to use sensors to see if prospective and current employees are up to the job.
“Methods that enhance our ability to evaluate an individual’s psychological drivers, cogni- tive abilities, and mental well- ness and resilience” will make for a better IC workforce, the announcement states.
IARPA is tackling the chal- lenge through a program called Multimodal Objective Sensing to Assess Individuals with Context (MOSAIC). Voluntary participants would wear or carry sensors that collect data as they go about their daily activities.
Research teams would likely test multimodal sensors to col- lect a “range of subject-focused and situational data,” according to IARPA.The goal is to piece together “an integrated model of the subject, their behaviors, and the social and physical context.”
An independent team will eval- uate employees’ performance against target benchmarks.
The MOSAIC program echoes broader government efforts to monitor security clearance hold- ers on an ongoing basis.
Full announcement:
The Census Bureau has estimated that it can conduct the 2020 headcount for $12.5 billion, but the Government Accountability Office isn’t buying Cen- sus’ forecasting methodology.
The bureau’s “October 2015 cost esti- mate for the 2020 census does not fully reflect characteristics of a high-quality estimate and cannot be considered reli- able,” auditors wrote in a GAO report released June 30.
Census released its life-cycle cost estimate last fall, touting new technolo- gy as one way it planned to rein in $5 bil- lion of projected cost growth. But GAO said the estimate did not fully comply with best practices for forecasting costs, and it did not fully account for the risks associated with that new technology.
GAO concluded that Census had done a thorough job of compiling a list of 2020 risks yet lacked a coherent, consistent way to fold those risks into its cost cal- culations. Furthermore, the bureau’s risk and uncertainty analysis only covered $4.6 billion — or roughly one-third — of the $12.5 billion total estimate.
Census officials also failed to keep detailed documentation of their meth- ods, making it difficult for GAO auditors to analyze the calculations and assump- tions underpinning the estimate.
GAO noted, however, that Census has taken “significant steps” to improve the way it estimates costs, including bring-
ing in outside analysts, acquiring new software and assembling semi-compre- hensive work breakdown structures.
Accurate cost estimations are increas- ingly important as decennial enumera- tions become more costly. From 1970 to 2010, the U.S. population grew by rough- ly 50 percent, while the cost of conduct- ing the decennial headcounts rose nearly 600 percent. GAO noted that the cost per housing unit for each enumeration rocketed from $16 in 1970 to $94 in 2010.
Census’ plan for 2020 would keep those costs from rising further, but GAO warned that the actual cost could be lower or much higher. It has been push- ing the bureau to improve its estimates for some time.
“In June 2008, we recommended the bureau establish guidance, policies and procedures for conducting cost estima- tion that would meet best practices cri- teria,” GAO’s report states. “Eight years later, the absence of guidance to control the cost estimation process persists.”
Census officials largely agreed with GAO’s recommendations and noted that they have already begun making improvements. They also argued that GAO did not provide examples of fed- eral projects that are as big or compli- cated as the decennial counts and meet all of GAO’s criteria for high-quality estimates.
— Zach Noble
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