The director of the U.S. Census Bureau is resigning, leaving the agency leaderless at a time when it faces a crisis over funding for the 2020 decennial count of the U.S. population and beyond. John H. Thompson, who has served as director since 2013 and worked for the bureau for 27 years before that, will leave June 30, the Commerce Department announced Tuesday. The news, which surprised census experts, follows an April congressional budget allocation for the census that critics say is woefully inadequate. And it comes less than a week after a prickly hearing at which Thompson told lawmakers that cost estimates for a new electronic data collection system had ballooned by nearly 50 percent.
“It’s like two trains going down the track toward each other, with Republicans decrying the budget overrun and Democrats saying the census has been underfunded,” Phil Sparks, co-director of the Census Project, a watchdog organization, said of the May 3 hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science. “This puts the census in the crosshairs both ways.”
No successor for Thompson was announced. A Commerce Department spokesperson said an acting director would be designated “in the coming days” and the position would be filled permanently “in due course.”