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Military gears up for 2010 Census

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

(U.S. Air Force graphic)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Defense Department officials are working with the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure that all military personnel are accounted for in the 2010 Census, a defense official said March 19.

All servicemembers and their families, whether stationed domestically or overseas, must be counted and attributed to their proper place of residence, said Mary Dixon, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center.

"The important thing is making sure that the states and the federal government are allocating funds to those communities where our bases are located, so they can properly support our military members," she said.

The constitution mandates that the government take a census of United States residents every 10 years. All residents, regardless of citizenship or legal status, are legally required to take part in the census.

Census information primarily is used to reapportion the number of seats allotted to each state in the House of Representatives. The government also draws on the data to distribute about $400 billion in aid for programs such as Medicaid. State officials use the records to determine how to allocate funds to cities and neighborhoods for critical projects such as infrastructure, hospitals and schools.

Officials from DOD and the Census Bureau established a joint working group in 2004 to coordinate the process of counting military members and their families. All four military services and the Coast Guard are included. The Defense Manpower Data Center -- whose staff collects, archives, and maintains manpower and personnel data -- represents the Defense Department on the committee.

"This group works together to figure out what that process is going to be, making sure we have all the designated points of contact, so that the census will run smoothly during the course of the census process," Ms. Dixon said.

Defense officials said the department is on track to submit the count forms to the bureau ahead of the July deadline.

All servicemembers who receive a census form are required to fill it out and mail it back to the Census Bureau. The data of military members stationed overseas -- who will not receive any forms -- will be processed administratively. Servicemembers who live in group quarters will be required to fill out a "military census report" that will be distributed and collected by their installation's service representative and submitted on their behalf to the bureau.

Servicemembers who are not U.S. citizens will be counted in the census. Servicemembers stationed overseas still are considered U.S. residents because they normally reside in the United States but are assigned abroad, Ms. Dixon said.

Because some servicemembers maintain more than one place of residence, the concern exists that some people will be counted twice, or not at all, Ms. Dixon acknowledged. But she added that she's is confident that Defense Department officials, who fine-tune the process after each census, will accomplish the mission accurately and efficiently.

"There haven't been any substantial differences in what we're doing," she said. "(And) I think we've been pretty successful in the past."