Nobody can be blamed for missing the news that the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, John H. Thompson, is leaving the Trump administration. He announced his resignation Tuesday, in the midst of the fallout that President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey.
Thompson has served as director since 2013. His departure comes amid arguments over funding for the 2020 count; the Trump administration's budget has been deemed insufficient. Additionally, last week Thompson revealed that the cost of a sophisticated new electronic data collection system has skyrocketed nearly 50 percent.
Still, the resignation came as a surprise, especially as Thompson had been due to retire in December anyway. "I saw him as recently as two weeks ago, he was feeling very good about where things were, so I must say that this comes as a surprise, and a sad surprise, that he would feel he needed to do this," Kenneth Prewitt, the director for the 2000 Census, told The Washington Post. "He's a very, very competent man."
Prewitt additionally worried about the void Thompson leaves behind. "That system is fragile, and it wouldn't take much to damage it severely," he told Science. "My real fear is that they don't care enough to do a good job with the 2020 census. And then after doing a bad job, they decide to let the private sector take over."