June 9, 2016
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse issued the following statement today after the Census Bureau’s Chief Information Officer failed to explain why the agency has not completed a report on cybersecurity, as required by Senator Sasse’s amendment to the Quarterly Financial Report Authorization Act that was passed on October 22, 2015.
“Sorry doesn't cut it. This shouldn’t be hard: follow the law. If Nebraskans don’t respond to the Census, they’ll face a fine but apparently census bureaucrats don’t feel any urgency to follow the law — even when the security of millions of Americans’ personal information is at stake. This is unacceptable.”
Today, at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, Commerce CIO Stephen Cooper admitted responsibility for failing to comply with the Quarterly Financial Report Authorization Act and submit a report on the Census Bureau’s cybersecurity strategy.
Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) had the following exchange with Mr. Cooper:
Chaffetz: Mr. Cooper, on October 22, 2015, Congress enacted what’s called the Quarterly Financial Report Reauthorization Act which requires the Secretary of Commerce to report to Congress on data security procedures at the Census Bureau by January 20th of 2016. The Bureau has yet to provide Congress this report. What is the status and why is it so late?
Cooper: I have to admit I can’t speak to exactly why it’s late other than I will take responsibility for that.
Chaffetz: Is it done?
Cooper: It is being completed as we speak. It came to my attention more recently that we had missed the deadline. My staff is now working to complete that report. I’ve seen the draft. It should be complete moving forward probably no later than the end of this month.
Chaffetz: It’s Federal law that you’re supposed to report — that you’re supposed to give this to us on January 20th so when did you become aware that it was late?
[Cooper looks behind to his staff.]
Cooper: I became aware last month.
Chaffetz: So it's due in January and you didn't know until May that it was late?
Cooper: That is correct.
Chaffetz: It's federal law. I don't know how you miss things like that. It gives me no confidence when you come and testify that "we're going to get this Census done on time, on budget."
Cooper: I understand Congressman. I apologize. I missed this one. I take full responsibility.
Chaffetz: But you missed the other two reports as well to Congress. The other promises that you made — that you came and testified before Congress — you missed those as well.
Cooper: I did. [pauses] I can absolutely understand how it doesn't instill confidence. I'm working to correct that as best I can.