GPO's value is more than saving money | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Government Printing Office takes a different view from that expressed by my friend
Robert Gellman in his column, “Government printing has centralized problem” [GCN, Jan. 11, Page 17].

With a price exceeding $1 billion a year, only half of which goes through GPO, the
government needs a system that maximizes printing value for its tax dollar, not one that
results in wasteful duplication of staffing, resources and effort throughout myriad
departments, agencies, bureaus and offices.

The simple fact is that GPO saves money for the taxpayers. Studies by the General
Accounting Office, the Office of Technology Assessment, GPO’s inspector general and
others have all found that it is less expensive for agencies to use GPO for their printing
than to produce or procure it themselves.

GPO provides a system of centrally managed production, procurement and dissemination
services. Only about 25 percent of all printing ordered from GPO is produced by GPO
itself. Everything else is bought by GPO from the private sector in one of the
government’s most efficient, effective and successful competitive procurement

Working in partnership with more than 10,000 contractors on a nationwide basis, our
procurement program achieves levels of competition far greater than agencies could by
themselves, resulting in the lowest possible prices.

At the same time, centralized management facilitates the effective enforcement of
related policy objectives, such as using recycled paper and vegetable oil-based printing
inks—a statutory requirement that Gellman himself helped Congress enact when he
worked on Capitol Hill—at a substantially reduced cost.

Just as important, GPO’s program reduces the administrative costs associated with
the disseminating information products to depository libraries. Fugitive
documents—publications that belong in the library program but don’t make their
way in—result primarily from too much decentralization in federal printing as it is,
rather than from GPO’s centrally managed program or “congressional
indifference,” as Gellman put it.

Moreover, when agencies use GPO, they do so without giving up essential controls. Most
of our printing procurements are conducted through direct-deal, term contracts, permitting
agencies to place their printing orders directly with the contractor.

Regarding Gellman’s statements that “central control ignores the
Internet” and is “an impediment to using the Net,” GPO doesn’t tell
agencies how to handle their Internet activities, nor is there any evidence that we have
impeded the growth of government Web sites.

Instead, we think our Internet activities have benefited users of electronic government
information as well as Internet activities governmentwide.

Look at the impact of our Web site, GPO Access. The public is using GPO Access to
retrieve more than 15 million documents a month. Built from the same databases used for
printing documents, GPO Access is the only federal site that hosts major publications from
all three branches of government or that hosts such a growing array of other agency sites
and Government Information Locator Service records.

Using GPO Access, we’ve built printing-Internet partnerships with agencies such as
the Commerce Department for the Commerce Business Daily. We’re using it to foster
electronic commerce in our printing procurements, expanding contracting opportunities in
the private sector. We’re using it to build effective search and locator services for
the public to find government information.

GPO Access, one of the most heavily used government sites on the Web, this past year
was one of 15 federal sites from among more than 4,300 to be recognized as Best Feds on
the Web by Vice President Gore and others. GPO’s presence on the Internet has
fostered, not hindered, the government’s Internet activities.

Andrew M. Sherman
Director, congressional, legislative and public affairs
Government Printing Office



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