Judges Help Students Focus on Meaning of Constitution and Citizenship Day

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Federal judges from New York to California are creating online civics opportunities throughout September to help students honor Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, despite the termination of courthouse trips and classroom visits due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Civic education is too important to postpone or reschedule,” said Judge Robert A. Katzmann, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He chairs the circuit’s Justice for All: Courts and the Community initiative with co-chair U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero. “Real-life civics education about the Constitution and our civic responsibilities is a vital public concern when it comes to maintaining a healthy democracy.”

Constitution Day marks the Sept. 17 anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. Citizenship Day, observed on the same date, celebrates all American citizens, whether native born or naturalized. In recent years, the Judiciary has called attention to the Constitution and to citizenship by hosting naturalizations and other community events, often in iconic settings.

This year, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is being celebrated virtually—as the Judiciary has moved many of its in-person, year-round civics programs to online delivery. In the Eastern District of New York, judges have reimagined their special occasion naturalization ceremonies and have created videos to assist teachers with delayed school start dates.

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The Eastern District of New York is taking a two-pronged approach that relies on classroom-ready videos.

One initiative, Constitution and Citizenship Month, is supported by a package of videos centering on the signing of the Constitution and the Sept. 28 start of the ratification process in the states. The ratification videos feature constitutional scholar Christopher R. Riano, executive director of the Center for Civic Education. A separate video in the package captures highlights from in-person naturalization ceremonies at iconic sites in the Second Circuit. The naturalization video, which was produced by the Second Circuit Library, includes recordings, photographs, and remarks by judges who presided at ceremonies throughout the circuit.

The other initiative, Bench in Your Backyard, is a series of videos on topics that include the structure of the federal Judiciary and constitutional concepts. A video also showcases careers in the federal courts and justice system.  Professionals provide a 360-degree view of the institutions when they talk about their roles, ranging from federal public defender to probation officer. One video in the package shows a naturalization ceremony at Sagamore Hill, known as President Theodore Roosevelt’s summer White House. The videos will be posted on the Justice for All website throughout the week of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, but they are applicable year-round.

Bench in Your Backyard started in 2016 as a joint project of the Eastern District of New York and the Federal Bar Association’s Eastern District of New York Chapter. The effort began as in-person presentations at schools, public libraries and other venues.  The content recently has been repackaged as videos for distance learning.

Videos from both initiatives are evergreen and will be posted on the Justice for All: Courts and The Community website. They can be used in combination with videos created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for the federal Judiciary’s YouTube channel and with resources posted in the educational resources section of the federal courts’ website.

“Teaching and learning in a virtual environment can be taxing day after day, so federal judges are doing what we can to bring a real-life dimension into civics education,” said Judge Joseph F. Bianco, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, who is featured in one of the videos. “We like to engage with the next generation and give them a positive learning experience with the Judiciary.”

Other circuits and courts are going virtual in honoring the Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

The Fourth Circuit’s annual essay contest showcases winners and their writings as part of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. During this 100th anniversary year of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, students identified barriers to voting and how they would protect and expand voting rights. The recognition ceremony for winners and their families has been moved from the courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, to a live-streamed event on YouTube, where students will read their winning essays. The live stream is scheduled Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

“One of the best ways to honor our Constitution is to honor our young people, the future,” said Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, at last year’s event. “If they lose their enthusiasm, and their passion and purpose for our constitutional government and democracy, then we are lost.

“But I don’t think we are lost at all,” he added. “I think we are in good hands.”

In the Eighth Circuit, U.S. Magistrate Judge Celeste F. Bremer, of Des Moines, is spearheading a Constitution Day and Citizenship Day initiative that includes a resource package posted on the circuit’s website. The program and materials center on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. 

The multi-faceted package includes activities for almost every age group: A scripted mock trial for sixth graders and beyond; a series of artist-rendered suffragist bookmarks for a creative expression activity; and a reading list and discussion starters for students from grade school to high school. The mock trial is a discussion starter activity that tells the story of Susan B. Anthony’s conviction and fine for voting in the 1872 presidential election.

“The mock trial is a vehicle for teaching the impact of the 19th Amendment on contemporary life because it fosters discussions about how leaders of social movements bring legal issues to the courts,” said Bremer. “The program gives students first-hand experience with civil discourse, the rule of law, and how society adapts to changes in the law.”

In St. Louis, the pandemic won’t disrupt a tradition maintained by Chief Judge Rodney W. Sippel in the Eastern District of Missouri. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey presides every year at a naturalization ceremony on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. This year will be no exception, but there will be modifications, including social distancing, masks and no in-person audience. The event for 20 candidates is scheduled Sept. 17 in the jury assembly room of the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse.  Voices of a choir from De Smet Jesuit High School will be part of the virtual program.

In the Ninth Circuit, federal judges in Sacramento have invited Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye and other state court judges to join them for a live-streamed event on Sept. 17. Judges, lawyers, justice system professionals, teachers, students, and others will convene virtually to read aloud the Preamble, Constitution, Bill of Rights and Amendments 11 through 27. 

Wiley W. Manuel Bar Association President Jasmine Turner-Bond will read the 15th Amendment to call attention to the 150th anniversary of Black men’s right to vote and Women Lawyers of Sacramento President Liz Olsen will read the 19th Amendment to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. Ninth Circuit librarians are inviting the public to share Constitution Selfies to be submitted for posting on the librarians’ website prior to Sept. 17.

“This event was inspired by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who encourages everyone to read the Constitution in its entirety, at least once a year,” said Chief Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, of the Eastern District of California, who is hosting the virtual reading. The Justice Anthony M. Kennedy Library and Learning Center is in the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse in Sacramento, where Kennedy grew up and Mueller now presides.

Mueller had been conceptualizing a public reading of the Constitution for some time when she learned of a program initiated by U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier, of the Eastern District of Tennessee.  They exchanged ideas at the first National Conference on Civic Education and the Federal Judiciary in 2019. Mueller credits Collier, and the American Democracy Project at Middle Tennessee State University, with creating a user-friendly script for the read-aloud program.

The public can watch the Sept. 17 event on YouTube at 10 a.m. PDT as student actors from Sheldon High School’s THEATREworks in Sacramento open the program with an interpretive reading of the Preamble. 

“In preparing for the interpretive reading, we discussed the Preamble and drilled down into the students’ understanding of the aspirations stated in it,” said Craig Howard, the Sheldon High School theater teacher, who is the producer and director of the performance. “The students’ deeper understanding will be conveyed in the emotion and emphasis they give to the reading in this multi-part rendition of the Constitutional concepts that bind us.”

In the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg will bring the virtual experience of Civil Discourse and Difficult Decisions to the students of Santaluces Community High School in Lantana, Florida. On Sept. 17 and 18, she will preside over this skill-building program in the distance-learning environment. The event, conducted in partnership with local chapters of the Federal Bar Association, will launch the fourth year of the national initiative pioneered in the Southern District of Florida.

Also on Sept. 17, students in the Academy of Law Studies at the Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial High School in Miami, will observe remotely as U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom swears in new citizens at a naturalization ceremony. Students then will participate in a program sponsored by the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

The Constitution Day and Citizenship Day activities offered by federal courts help schools meet a Congressional mandate to teach about the Constitution on Sept. 17 every year. Learn more about Constitution Day and Citizenship Day and find resources that are ready for immediate use in the distance-learning space, classrooms, and at home.

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    GAO found that the completeness and accuracy of Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) data have improved. Over the past decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been implementing T-MSIS, which is the agency's initiative to improve state-reported data available for overseeing Medicaid. CMS's assessment of two key T-MSIS data sources reflect these improvements. I. Priority items. Priority items are areas of data CMS identified as critical for program oversight, such as beneficiary eligibility and managed care. CMS's assessment of states' data submissions for the first 12 priority items identified significant improvement in meeting CMS data standards over a 22-month period. CMS's assessments of additional priority items similarly indicate improved completeness and accuracy. Improvements in the Number of States Meeting CMS Standards for Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System Priority Items One through 12 Number of priority items that met standards Number of states as of October 2018 Number of states as of August 2020 10 or more 6 41 7 to 9 26 10 6 or less 18 0 Source: GAO analysis of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) priority item data. │ GAO-21-196 Note: CMS assessed data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. CMS excluded Wisconsin from its October 2018 assessment, because the state had not submitted sufficient data. II. Analytic files. Analytic files are publicly available, research-ready T-MSIS data. GAO's review of CMS's assessments found that all states submitted some data for 67 of the 69        topics relevant to their Medicaid programs. This is an improvement from what GAO found in 2017, when none of the six states reviewed submitted all T-MSIS data applicable to their programs. GAO also found that states' data for 52 of the 69 topics were acceptable—meaning that CMS determined most states' data did not have significant problems that would affect their usability. While CMS's assessments of priority item and analytic file data indicate improvement in the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data, GAO also found that these assessments highlight areas where data do not meet the agency's standards. For example, 30 states did not submit acceptable data for inpatient managed care encounters. Accurate encounter data are critical to ensuring that Medicaid managed care beneficiaries obtain covered services and that payments to managed care organizations are appropriate. GAO has made at least 13 recommendations related to improving T-MSIS data and expediting their use for program oversight. CMS has addressed five of these recommendations, and has not fully addressed eight—including recommendations to improve data for overseeing payments to providers and managed care organizations. Implementing these recommendations would help CMS strengthen program oversight through improved T-MSIS data. Since adding Medicaid to its High Risk List in 2003, GAO has identified multiple limitations in program data affecting CMS's ability to ensure beneficiaries' access to care and proper payments to health care providers. CMS intends T-MSIS be a national repository of data to manage and oversee Medicaid, which served approximately 77 million individuals at an estimated cost of $673 billion in fiscal year 2020. Prior GAO work found issues with the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data and recommended that CMS expedite efforts to improve T-MSIS data and to use them for program oversight. CMS has taken steps to improve T-MSIS data and has made some T-MSIS data publicly available. Yet, questions remain about the usability of T-MSIS data for program oversight. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to examine what is known about the completeness and accuracy of T-MSIS data. GAO reviewed CMS's assessments of two T-MSIS data sources: (1) states' submissions of T-MSIS priority items; and (2) the 2016 T-MSIS analytic files, which was the most recent analytic file data available when GAO began this work. GAO also reviewed CMS documents, prior GAO reports, and reports published by others examining T-MSIS data. GAO interviewed officials from CMS and seven states selected based on variation in their progress submitting complete and accurate priority item data, among other factors. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated. For more information, contact Carolyn L. Yocom at (202) 512-7114 or yocomc@gao.gov.
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  • GPS Modernization: DOD Continuing to Develop New Jam-Resistant Capability, But Widespread Use Remains Years Away
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) is closer to being able to use military code (M-code)—a stronger, more secure signal for the Global Positioning System (GPS) designed to meet military needs. However, due to the complexity of the technology, M-code remains years away from being widely fielded across DOD. M-code-capable receiver equipment includes different components, and the development and manufacture of each is key to the modernization effort. These include: special M-code application-specific integrated circuit chips, special M-code receiver cards, being developed under the Air Force Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) programs, and the next generation of GPS receivers capable of using M-code signals from GPS satellites. DOD will need to integrate all of these components into different types of weapon systems (see figure for notional depiction of integration for one system). Integration across DOD will be a considerable effort involving hundreds of different weapon systems, including some with complex and unique integration needs or configurations. Global Positioning System User Equipment Integration The Air Force is almost finished—approximately one year behind schedule—developing and testing one M-code card for testing on the Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Army Stryker vehicle. However, one card intended for use in aircraft and ships is significantly delayed and missed key program deadlines. The Air Force is revising its schedule for testing this card. The M-code card development delays have had ripple effects on GPS receiver modernization efforts and the weapon systems that intend to use them. For example, an Air Force receiver modernization effort that depends on the new technology will likely breach its schedule and incur additional costs because of the delay. In turn, DOD planned to incorporate that receiver into its F/A-18 fighter aircraft, AV-8B strike aircraft, and the MH-53E helicopter, but it no longer plans to do so because of the delay. DOD has not yet determined the full extent of the development effort to widely integrate and field M-code receivers across the department. The amount of additional development and integration work is expected to vary for each weapon system and could range from a few weeks to several years. DOD is taking steps to enable fielding modernized receivers that use M-code cards by working to identify integration and production challenges. DOD has been developing the capability to use its more jam-resistant military-specific GPS signal for 2 decades. The Air Force launched the first GPS satellite capable of broadcasting the M-code signal in 2005, but is only now completing development of the software and other equipment needed to use it. The GPS modernization effort spans DOD and the military services, but an Air Force program office is developing M-code cards for eventual production and integration into weapon systems. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 included a provision that the Air Force provide quarterly reports to GAO on next-generation GPS acquisition programs, and that GAO brief congressional defense committees. Since 2016, GAO has provided briefings and reported on various aspects of GPS. This report discusses DOD's progress and challenges (1) developing M-code receiver cards, and (2) developing receivers and taking other steps to make M-code-capable receivers available for fielding. GAO reviewed schedules and cost estimates for the Air Force's MGUE programs; military service and DOD M-code implementation data; and test and integration plans for aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles. GAO also reviewed strategies for continued access to microelectronics and interviewed officials from the MGUE programs, military services, and DOD, and representatives from microelectronics developers. For more information, contact Jon Ludwigson at (202) 512-4841 or ludwigsonj@gao.gov.
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    In Justice News
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    The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is seeking applications for funding for the National Census of Victim Service Providers (NCVSP). This program furthers efforts to expand the statistical infrastructure around victim services, including the availability and use of services to support victims of crime or abuse.
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  • High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System Acquisitions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.
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  • Public Health: Federal Programs Provide Screening and Treatment for Breast and Cervical Cancer
    In U.S GAO News
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (the Early Detection Program) to provide cancer screening and diagnostic services to people who are low-income and uninsured or underinsured. For those screened under the program who require treatment, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000 (the Treatment Act) allows states to extend Medicaid eligibility to individuals not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. GAO analysis of CDC data show that the Early Detection Program screened 296,225 people in 2018, a decrease from 550,390 in 2011 (about 46 percent). The largest decrease occurred from 2013 to 2014 (see figure). According to a CDC-funded study, the number of people eligible for the Early Detection Program decreased from 2011 through 2017, by about 48 percent for breast cancer and about 49 percent for cervical cancer. CDC officials attributed these declines in screening and eligibility, in part, to improved access to screening under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). For example, PPACA required health plans to cover certain women's preventive health care with no cost sharing. Number of People Screened by CDC's Early Detection Program, 2011-2018 GAO analysis of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) data found that, in 2019, 43,549 people were enrolled in Medicaid under the Treatment Act to receive treatment for breast or cervical cancer, a decrease from 50,219 in 2016 (13.3 percent). Thirty-seven states experienced a decrease in Medicaid enrollment under the Treatment Act during this time period, 13 states experienced an increase, and one state had no change. CMS officials noted that Medicaid expansion to adults with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level under PPACA (the new adult group) is a key factor that contributed to these enrollment trends. CMS officials said that, in Medicaid expansion states, there were some people who previously would have enrolled in Medicaid based on eligibility under the Treatment Act who instead became eligible for Medicaid in the new adult group. The CMS data show that total enrollment under the Treatment Act in Medicaid expansion states decreased by 25.6 percent from 2016 to 2019. In contrast, total enrollment under the Treatment Act in non-expansion states increased by about 1 percent during this time period. According to the CDC, tens of thousands of people die each year from breast or cervical cancer. Early screening and detection, followed by prompt treatment, can improve outcomes and, ultimately, save lives. Federal programs, like CDC's Early Detection Program, are intended to improve access to these services. GAO was asked to examine the implementation of the Early Detection Program and the states' use of Medicaid under the Treatment Act. This report provides information on the number of people who were 1) screened through the Early Detection Program and 2) enrolled in Medicaid under the Treatment Act. GAO analyzed CDC data on the number of people screened by the Early Detection Program from calendar years 2011 through 2018—the most recent available. GAO also analyzed CMS Medicaid enrollment data from 2016 through 2019—the most recent available. Additionally, GAO reviewed a 2020 study funded by CDC that examines the number of people eligible for the Early Detection Program from 2011 through 2017. Finally, GAO interviewed CDC and CMS officials and reviewed relevant CDC and CMS documents. For more information, contact John E. Dicken, (202) 512-7114, dickenj@gao.gov.
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  • Science & Tech Spotlight: Agile Software Development
    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Agile software development has the potential to save the federal government billions of dollars and significant time, allowing agencies to deliver software more efficiently and effectively for American taxpayers. However, the transition to Agile requires an investment in new tools and processes, which can be costly and time consuming. The Methodology What is it? Agile is an approach to software development that encourages collaboration across an organization and allows requirements to evolve as a program progresses. Agile software development emphasizes iterative delivery; that is, the development of software in short, incremental stages. Customers continuously provide feedback on the software's functionality and quality. By engaging customers early and iterating often, agencies that adopt Agile can also reduce the risks of funding failing programs or outdated technology. Figure 1. Cycle of Agile software development How does it work? Agile software development is well suited for programs where the end goal is known, but specific details about their implementation may be refined along the way. Agile is implemented in different ways. For example, Scrum is a framework focused on teams, Scaled Agile Framework focuses on scaling Agile to larger groups, and DevOps extends the Agile principle of collaboration and unites the development and operation teams. Scrum, one of the most common Agile frameworks, organizes teams using defined roles, such as the product owner, who represents the customer, prioritizes work, and accepts completed software. In Scrum, development is broken down into timed iterations called sprints, where teams commit to complete specific requirements within a defined time frame. During a sprint, teams meet for daily stand-up meetings. At the end of a sprint, teams present the completed work to the product owner for acceptance. At a retrospective meeting following each sprint, team members discuss lessons learned and any changes needed to improve the process. Sprints allow for distinct, consistent, and measurable progress of prioritized software features. How mature is it? Organizations have used versions of incremental software development since the 1950s, with various groups creating Agile frameworks in the 1990s, including Scrum in 1995. In 2001, a group of software developers created the Agile Manifesto, which documents the guiding principles of Agile. Following this, Agile practitioners introduced new frameworks, such as Kanban, which optimizes work output by visualizing its flow. The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), enacted in 2014, includes a provision for the Office of Management and Budget to require the Chief Information Officers of covered agencies to certify that IT investments are adequately implementing incremental development. This development approach delivers capabilities more rapidly by dividing an investment into smaller parts. As a result, more agencies are now adopting an incremental, Agile, approach to software development. For example, in 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced five Agile pilot programs. In 2020, at least 22 Department of Defense major defense acquisition programs reported using Agile development methods.  As the federal government continues to adopt Agile, effective oversight of these programs will be increasingly crucial. Our GAO Agile Assessment Guide, released in 2020, takes a closer look at the following categories of best practices: Agile adoption. This area focuses on team dynamics, program operations, and organization environments. One best practice for teams is to have repeatable processes in place such as continuous integration, which automates parts of development and testing. At the program operations level, staff should be appropriately trained in Agile methods. And at an organizational level, a best practice is to create a culture that supports Agile methods. Requirements development and management. Requirements—sometimes called user stories—are important in making sure the final product will function as intended. Best practices in this area include eliciting and prioritizing requirements and ensuring work meets those requirements. Acquisition strategy. Contractors may have a role in an Agile program in government. However, long timelines to award contracts and costly changes are major hurdles to executing Agile programs. One way to clear these hurdles is for organizations to create an integrated team with personnel from contracting, the program office, and software development. Clearly identifying team roles will alleviate bottlenecks in the development process. Figure 2. Different roles come together to make an Agile software development team. Program monitoring and control. Many Agile documents may be used to generate reliable cost and schedule estimates throughout a program’s life-cycle. Metrics. It is critical that metrics align with and prioritize organization-wide goals and objectives while simultaneously meeting customer needs. Such metrics in Agile include the number of features delivered to customers, the number of defects, and overall customer satisfaction.  Opportunities Flexibility. An Agile approach provides flexibility when customers’ needs change and as technology rapidly evolves. Risk reduction. Measuring progress during frequent iterations can reduce technical and programmatic risk. For example, routine retrospectives allow the team to reflect upon and improve the development process for the next iteration. Quicker deliveries. Through incremental releases, agencies can rapidly determine if newly produced software is meeting their needs. With Agile, these deliveries are typically within months, instead of alternative development methods, which can take years. Challenges GAO has previously reported on challenges the federal government faces in applying Agile methods; for the full report see GAO-12-681. Lack of organizational commitment. For example, organizations need to create a dedicated Agile team, which is a challenge when there is an insufficient number of staff, or when staff have several simultaneous duties. Resources needed to transition to Agile. An organization transitioning to Agile may need to invest in new tools, practices, and processes, which can be expensive and time consuming. Mistrust in iterative solutions. Customers who typically see a solution as a whole may be disappointed by the delivery of a small piece of functionality. Misaligned agency practices. Some agency practices, such as procurement, compliance reviews, federal reporting, and status tracking are not designed to support Agile software development. Policy and Context Questions In what ways can Agile help the federal government improve the management of IT acquisitions and operations, an area GAO has identified as high risk for the federal government? How can policymakers implement clear guidance about the use of Agile software development, such as reporting metrics, to better support Agile methods? How might resources need to shift to accommodate the adoption of Agile in federal agencies? What risks could those shifts pose? What updates to agency practices are worth pursuing to support Agile software development? For more information, contact Tim Persons at (202) 512-6888 or personst@gao.gov.
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  • 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Ensure Transparency over Data Quality
    In U.S GAO News
    This 2020 Census was taken under extraordinary circumstances. In response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and related executive branch decisions, the Bureau made a series of late changes to the design of the census. The report GAO is releasing today discusses a number of concerns regarding how late changes to the census design could affect data quality. The Bureau has numerous planned assessments and evaluations of operations which, in conjunction with its post-enumeration survey (PES)—a survey conducted independently of each census to determine how many people were missed or counted more than once—help determine the overall quality of the census and document lessons for future censuses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will continue to monitor the Bureau's response processing operations. GAO was asked to testify on the Census Bureau's progress to deliver apportionment counts for the 2020 Decennial Census. This testimony summarizes information contained in GAO's December 2020 report, entitled 2020 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Assess Data Quality Concerns Stemming from Recent Design Changes and discusses key quality indicators the Bureau can share, as it releases apportionment counts and redistricting data. These key indicators discussed are consistent with those recommended by the American Statistical Association and Census Scientific Advisory Committee for the Bureau. In the accompanying report being issued today, GAO is recommending that the Bureau update and implement its assessments to address data quality concerns identified in this report, as well as any operational benefits. In its comments, the Department of Commerce agreed with GAO's findings and recommendation. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202) 512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.
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