The U.S. military overseas is playing a pivotal role in ensuring that Americans living abroad are counted for the 2010 census – but the data collected overseas is far less detailed than what is gathered in the States.

Officials from the Department of Defense Manpower Data Center have met, and plan to meet again, with the U.S. Census Bureau to get a final tally of how many servicemembers, dependents and DOD civilians live abroad. The final 2010 census has to be on President Barack Obama’s desk by Dec. 31, 2010, but the goal is to get all of the information by February 2010, said Karen Crook, a project manager with the Census Bureau.

"The way we collect the data is, we use administrative records and we write to all of the federal agencies that have Americans overseas — we send them a letter," Crook said. "But we are already working with the Department of Defense. We met with them Feb. 3."

It is imperative to get the DOD count because the numbers make up a significant portion of Americans living overseas, Crook said.

"It is not difficult. It is just about working with (DOD), and they have to get a count for all of their branches and they have to add it all together," Crook said.

But unlike the figures gathered in the States, the Census Bureau is unable to get a clear picture of the overseas American population because citizens living abroad do not fill out the bureau’s questionnaire, Crook said. The only information the bureau gets besides the count is people’s home states, she said.

The census survey asks questions about age, race, gender and other demographic information.

According to the Census Bureau, information on age can be used for gathering data on the voting-age population for redrawing congressional district lines and for other uses. Gender is relevant because some federal programs target different sexes.

Navy officials have released a document that specifies how they plan to coordinate with the Census Bureau to account for every sailor, including those at sea.

The document indicated that the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces will coordinate the procedures for getting counts on ships while the commander of Navy Installations Command will handle it for naval bases. Other commands within the Navy will handle the census for medical facilities and Naval Academy dormitories.

The numbers in recent census counts and DOD figures also show that a significant drawdown has been followed by a slight overseas surge in military forces other than those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The number of U.S. servicemembers overseas dropped sharply from 529,269 in the 1990 census to 226,363 in 2000. The total number of Americans living abroad also dropped in that time span, from 925,845 to 576,367. The Census Bureau provides only a count; it does not break down the numbers by region or country.

Defense Department data, however, show that 10 years of reducing its forces overseas from 1990 to 2000 was followed by a slight increase to 288,550 by September 2008. Europe had 82,460 servicemembers stationed there. After the 9/11 attacks there were 118,105 American servicemembers stationed in Europe.

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