Spotlight: U.S. Bureau of the Census

Census SealWhich federal agency’s headquarters received a 2012 Award of Excellence in Architecture from AIA DC (the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects)? Skidmore, Owings & Merrill won the award for its design of the Suitland, Md., headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of the Census (also referred to as the Census Bureau), a LEED Silver–rated state-of-the-art workplace. The agency conducts a population census every ten years; the results are used to allocate Congressional seats, electoral votes, and funding for various government programs.

According to its mission statement, the Census Bureau “serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy.” The first census after the American Revolution, held in 1790, counted 3.9 million people. That census, and the next eight, were conducted by U.S. marshals and reported to the president (1790), the secretary of state (1800–1840) and the secretary of the interior (1850–1870). For the 1880 census, Congress established a separate census office within the U.S. Department of the Interior; in 1902, Congress enacted legislation creating a permanent Census Office within that department and in 1903 the office was moved to the new Department of Commerce and Labor. When that department split in 1913, the Census Bureau remained within Commerce. The most recent decennial census, in 2010, was the first to record a U.S. population of more than 300 million (308,745,538, to be exact).

When the Census Bureau’s first “permanent” headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C., was taken over by the Office of Price Administration (a wartime agency) in 1942, the bureau moved to the nearby suburb of Suitland, Md. Although its stay in Federal Office Building #3 at the Suitland Federal Complex was intended to be temporary, the agency later expanded into several other buildings there, as well as to additional satellite locations in Suitland and Upper Marlboro. On August 7, 2006, its new headquarters building opened. Today, 4,253 employees work at the Suitland facility; more than 10,000 additional employees work in other facilities, including the following:

  • The National Processing Center (NPC) in Jeffersonville, Ind., a former Army quartermaster depot, which also manages one telephone center located in three geographically dispersed locations (Jeffersonville, Hagerstown, Md., and Tucson, Ariz.).
  • The Bowie Computer Center at the Maryland Science and Technology Center in Bowie, Md., a 110,724-square-foot facility, 90 percent of which houses computer equipment (including one of the largest supercomputers in the nation, which currently is being used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  for weather forecasting).
  • Six regional offices, in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. (Six other regional offices, in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle, closed on December 31, 2012.)
  • Their own homes: last year, the agency hired and trained more than 625 home-based field supervisors, and deployed new technology to enable those supervisors to have full and secure access to Census Bureau data systems. Many other Census Bureau employees also telework on a part-time basis.

Overall, the Census Bureau now employs a total of 14,380 people. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for the Census Bureau was approximately $970 million, about 83 million above the 2012 estimated level of $887 million. 

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