GPO gunning for NTIS jobs

As critics questioned whether the decision to close the National Technical Information Service makes sense, officials from the Government Printing Office on Thursday asked Congress for control of NTIS' document collection and associated services.

"This proposal was drafted without a clear concept of the role of the government and its agencies in the archival, retention, retrieval and dissemination of scientific and technical information," said Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) at a Senate hearing this week. "Although it is clear that some change is necessary at NTIS, it is not clear that a complete overhaul is necessary."

NTIS collects, archives and sells scientific, technical, engineering and related business information produced by or for the government. The Commerce Department in August announced plans to close NTIS because it concluded that its core function of providing government information for a fee is outdated in the age of the Internet. NTIS, which is required by law to cover all of its expenses, has lost several million dollars during the past few years.

"The growth of the Internet has rendered outmoded the business model NTIS uses to carry out its core mission," said Robert Mallett, deputy secretary of Commerce, at a hearing Thursday held by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Science, Technology and Space subcommittee.

Commerce has proposed transferring NTIS' collection of scientific and technical documents to the Library of Congress and also has asked agencies to post their technical and business reports on the Internet for at least three years. Commerce also has pledged to help NTIS employees find new jobs in government.

However, the draft legislation that Commerce officials presented to Congress that would close NTIS presents "more questions than answers," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) in his written testimony. "They have neglected to address the important clearinghouse function that NTIS performs for both federal agencies and the public."

Commerce has ignored the concerns of its users who are worried about limited access to scientific and technical documents, Davis added.

Other critics spoke out during Thursday's hearing, including Bill Clark, executive committee member of the National Federation of Federal Employees, Local 1627. "There is no valid justification for closing NTIS," Clark said. "It jeopardizes the many critical functions NTIS performs, while placing an additional burden on U.S. taxpayers to cover the costs of moving NTIS functions to the Library of Congress."

Meanwhile, the GPO is ready and willing to take over NTIS' collection of scientific and technical information and all associated functions, said Michael DiMario, chief executive officer at GPO. GPO prints, binds and distributes federal publications and provides online access to government documents, including the Federal Register.

"The similarities in function between GPO and NTIS, the fact that both are experienced in operating on revolving funds, the potential for valuable synergies of technologies and staff expertise that could benefit public access to government information—all of these are reasons for a realignment of NTIS functions with GPO," DiMario said.

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