WASHINGTON (AP) – The Census Bureau must make changes to a new annual survey that collects demographic information on Americans or risk having to mail “long forms” again for the next head count in 2010, congressional watchdogs said Monday.

The Government Accountability Office criticized planning and methodology for the new “American Community Survey,” including questions over how to count Americans with seasonal homes and how data is collected for neighborhoods and other small areas.

The bureau has been testing the survey for years. However, the plan to begin full implementation for 2005 has several critical deficiencies, the GAO said.

Associate bureau director Preston Jay Waite, who oversees the new survey, said the GAO findings were mainly disappointing and that the report was outdated and contained numerous factual errors.

“Is there any question in my mind of whether we are ready to replace the long form? None whatsoever,” Waite said.

Release of the report comes as the Bush administration lobbies the Senate for more money for the American Community Survey in 2005.

Bush requested $165 million. House appropriators have earmarked $146 million, but the Senate bill stands at $65 million.

Budget negotiations are scheduled to resume next week when Congress returns. The bureau has said the new survey must be funded closer to the House proposal or it may have to revert to the 53-question long form, which some Republicans and privacy advocates in 2000 said was too intrusive.

Like the long form, the new survey would cover detailed topics like housing, education and income.

Bureau director Louis Kincannon had not seen the GAO report Monday but said he “hoped it has the effect of being reassuring and not raising false questions.”



On the Net:

GAO: http://www.gao.gov/

Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/

AP-ES-11-08-04 1228EST



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