The top two officials at the Census Bureau announced Tuesday that they are leaving the agency amid conflicts with their bosses in the Bush administration.
Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon said he feels he has lost the confidence of the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau.
"I do not perceive that I have the same trust from the department that I did a year or more ago," Kincannon said in an interview. "I don't believe that they take it at face value when I say something."
Kincannon, 65, plans to stay on until a new director is confirmed. He would not cite specific disagreements with department officials.
His announcement comes two months after the Commerce Department revealed that Census workers had lost a total of 672 computers since 2001. Nearly 250 of the computers contained some personal data, though there has been no evidence that any of that information has been misused. The Census Bureau is the government's main collector of information about Americans.
Including the Census laptops, the Commerce Department acknowledged losing a total of 1,138 computers - more than any other federal department.
Kincannon and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez mutually agreed on Kincannon's departure, said department spokesman Dan Nelson.
"The secretary is grateful for his service and appreciates all that he's done," Nelson said.
Hermann Habermann, the bureau's deputy director, announced that he will retire in January. Habermann said he, too, had management differences with Commerce officials, but he declined to elaborate.
"I'm not trying to cast any blame or aspersions, but sometimes when senior people see these things, they have differences," said Habermann, 64, who has been at the bureau since 2002.
2010 census on schedule
President Bush nominated Kincannon to run the Census Bureau in 2001 and he was confirmed in 2002. Kincannon is a Texas native and a career government employee who first began working at the Census Bureau as a statistician in 1963. He left for nine years before returning as director.
Kincannon is leaving the bureau as it gears up for the 2010 census, the first without the "long form" questionnaire. The long form is being replaced by the American Community Survey, an annual survey of 3 million households that will provide social, economic and demographic information about every community in the country.
Department spokesman Nelson said the 2010 census is on schedule.
But Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., a member of the House Government Reform Committee's Census panel, said, "The president should move swiftly to nominate an eminently qualified statistician. At this point, without knowing who's taking over, it's fair to say that the accuracy of the 2010 Census is absolutely in jeopardy."