From the office of Rep. Maloney:
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced legislation to elevate the Census Bureau to the status of an Independent Agency in the federal government hierarchy, moving it outside of the massive Commerce Department. Joining Maloney as original cosponsors the "Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008", H.R. 7069 are Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), William Clay (D-MO), Michael Honda (D-CA), and Henry Waxman (D-CA).
"After three decades of controversy surrounding the decennial census, the time has come to recognize the Census Bureau as one of our country’s premier scientific agencies and it should be accorded the status of peers such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation," Maloney said. "This action will be a clear signal to Americans that the agency they depend upon for unbiased monthly economic data as well as the important decennial portrait of our nation is independent, fair, and protected from interference," the Congresswoman added.
Maloney’s bill was endorsed in a letter signed by every living former Director of the Census who collectively served seven Presidents from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.
"Although appointed by different Presidents we are of one mind in our strong endorsement of the proposed legislation known as ‘Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008’ that will establish the Census Bureau as an Independent Agency. We believe that this is an Act whose time has come, and that its enactment will ensure that the Census Bureau can discharge its constitutional obligation to conduct the Decennial Census and carry out other statistical operations – such as the Economic Census and the Census of Governments – that the Congress requires," wrote the seven former Directors.
"Nearly every economic statistic reported in the news and relied upon by Americans is derived from data collected day in and day out by career professionals at the Census Bureau. Yet, the average American would be hard pressed to find this vital agency even on the Commerce Department’s own organizational chart on the government’s website where it is buried in the basement of 32 boxes on the chart!" Maloney said.
The bill would take effect in January 2012 after completion of the 2010 Decennial Census so as not to interfere with preparations for that important event. It also calls for a five-year term for the new Director by nomination of the President and confirmation by the Senate. A new independent Census Inspector General would be created by the legislation as well.
"Our goal with this bill is to begin a serious national discussion in advance of hearings next year in the new Congress. Census stakeholders, the Congress, and America’s businesses and universities that are the biggest consumers of Census Bureau data are encouraged to offer their views on what I believe is a long overdue step to ensure the professional independence of this agency," Rep. Maloney said.
"At the dawn of the American republic, both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison felt the Census was so vital to our democracy that they each took responsibility for our earliest censuses. It is indispensable to the basic principles of democratic representation that the decennial census itself is seen by the American public to be completely independent and nonpartisan," she concluded.
Commerce Dept. current organizational chart (PDF)
H.R. 7069 in PDF
September 23, 2008
To: Carolyn Maloney, Member of the House of Representatives
From: Vincent P. Barabba (1973-76 and 1979-81)*
Bruce Chapman (1981-1983)
John G. Keane (1984 – 1987)
Barbara Everitt Bryant (1989 -1993)
Martha Farnsworth Riche (1994-1998)
Kenneth Prewitt (1998-2001)
Charles Louis Kincannon (2002 - 2008)
*Years of service as Director of the U. S. Census Bureau
The signatures to this Letter served as Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, appointed by Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, G. H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and G. W. Bush. Although appointed by different Presidents we are of one mind in our strong endorsement of the proposed legislation known as “Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008” that will establish the Census Bureau as an Independent Agency. We believe that this is an Act whose time has come, and that its enactment will ensure that the Census Bureau can discharge its constitutional obligation to conduct the Decennial Census and carry out other statistical operations – such as the Economic Census and the Census of Governments – that the Congress requires and the nation needs.
We offer three reasons for our endorsement. First, following three decades during which the press and the Congress frequently discussed the Decennial Census in explicitly partisan terms it is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau.”
Second, the Commerce Department is responsible for many activities and several very large agencies. For the Commerce Department, the importance of the Census Bureau waxes and wanes, peaking as the Decennial approaches but then drifting down the Department’s priority list. The Census Bureau, however, conducts extensive preparatory activities for the Decennial Census during the entire decade preceding it. It also has other major statistical responsibilities in the years that intervene between Decennial Censuses – including producing the nation’s ongoing economic monitoring measures. As an Independent Agency it will more efficiently focus on these continuous responsibilities.
Third, as Directors each of us experienced times when we could have made much more timely and thorough responses to Congressional requests and oversight if we had dealt directly with the Congress.
The Census Bureau is the nation’s largest, general-purpose statistical agency. Establishing it as an Independent Agency, in the government’s highly decentralized system of statistical programs, will be broadly beneficial to other statistical agencies and programs in emphasizing that the nation’s statistical products are scientific and independent of partisan considerations. This is a valuable signal for the American public in a time of economic uncertainty and the corresponding high level of dependence on the numbers generated by the federal statistical system.
We congratulate you and your colleagues for initiating the Bill, and offer our services in any way that you might find useful.