On August 1, the Senate voted by unanimous consent to confirm John H. Thompson as the new director of the Census Bureau. He arrives at a crucial time in the planning stages for the 2020 Census and when the American Community Survey (ACS) is under constant threat from Congress.
The Marketing Research Association (MRA) welcomed Thompson's confirmation, noting his experience in both the survey, opinion and marketing research profession and the Census Bureau itself. Thompson has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. He also previously worked as a career staffer at the Census Bureau in a variety of management positions, including as the senior career officer responsible for all aspects of the 2000 Census.
MRA had previously called upon the White House to promptly nominate a new Director and, once nominated, we endorsed Thompson and requested his prompt confirmation before a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee last month.
"Thompson is perhaps the most knowledgeable person on Census methodology, with a wealth of practical experience and a clear desire to innovate and help the Bureau move forward," commented Stephen E. Fienberg, Maurice Falk Professor of Statistics at Carnegie-Mellon University.
He replaces Acting Director Thomas L. Mesenbourg, who announced his retirement. The Bureau has been without a Senate-confirmed director since the resignation of Robert Groves a year ago.
Thompson is the first director of the Census Bureau able to serve up to two consecutive five year terms, thanks to the "Presidential Appointment and Streamlining Appointment Act" signed by the president in 2012. He has thus been empowered to provide the stability and leadership the Bureau requires as it works to improve the administration of the American Community Survey (ACS) and prepare for the 2020 Census. A Congressionally-approved leader is essential long-term, as budget battles loom over funding for the next decennial Census. Moreover, Thompson will also be able to help the Bureau better engage with a combative Congress that has previously voted to neuter the ACS by making response voluntary and then to eliminate it entirely.
"It's a tremendous honor and privilege to return to public service as the Director of the Census Bureau, one of the most important organizations in the federal statistical system, as well as a place that holds warm memories for me," said Thompson. "As America forges its data-driven future, the Census Bureau must lead the way by tracking emerging trends, developing more efficient processes and embracing new technologies for planning and executing the 2020 Census and its other surveys that are so important to the nation. As Director, I will use all of my skills, intellect and experience to foster a culture of innovation and adaptability that allows the Census Bureau to serve the public's needs and meet the challenges of this dynamic new environment."