Census to Count Troops by Base Home Address, Officials Say

A U.S. Army soldier attempts to complete his 2010 Census form.
FILE -- In this file photo, U.S. Army Forces Command soldier attempts to complete his 2010 Census form. (Paul D. Prince/U.S. Army Forces Command Public Affairs)

Census workers will be permitted to work their way through on-base housing to list service members both stateside and overseas as part of the 2020 Census, officials said Monday.

"We've been working with the Department of Defense to build a strong housing list for housing units included on military bases" to get an accurate count, Deirdre Bishop, chief of the geography division at the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a conference call.

That information will be used to determine how population-driven federal programs are implemented and to count voters for congressional redistricting. Troops stationed stateside will be counted as living where they are physically based, while those stationed overseas will be counted as residing at the last stateside location at which they lived.

How service members and their families are counted during the 2020 Census will not impact their official home of record or state residencies.

Concerns were raised earlier this year that DoD security restrictions could limit the count of deployed troops.

But Bishop said, "We will be counting those who live on bases stateside and overseas. They will count not only for apportionment but for legislative redistricting."

The initial list of addresses worked up in consultation with the DoD will be validated by the Bureau and then double-checked, she said. Those who couldn't be validated in the office will be checked during field canvassing.

Census officials said the bureau is building a cadre of 40,000 field canvassers from about a half-million applicants to go door-to-door during the count.

Under Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution, the nation is required to hold a census every 10 years, but the method for counting service members has varied at times.

Beginning with the 1970 census, the Bureau ruled that service members overseas would be counted in state population totals in deciding how to divide up congressional seats and Electoral College votes.

Despite confidence expressed Monday by Census officials, the Bureau itself warned of the difficulties in counting troops overseas in a 2012 memorandum.

"Counting the federally affiliated population residing overseas will continue to be a challenge in the 2020 Census," both for deployed troops and federal workers assigned overseas, according to the memo.

"One of the greatest challenges will be how to continue to gather high-quality data for this population, given that the data are collected and maintained for other purposes by the federal agencies," the memo states. "Maintaining a strong relationship with the Department of Defense is key to a successful operation in the 2020 Census."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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