Report: Keep NTIS open ? for now

The Commerce Department should keep its National Technical Information Service

open — at least for the short-term — a report released this month recommended

to Congress and the Clinton administration.

The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS)

report recommends that Commerce retain NTIS through the end of fiscal 2000

and into fiscal 2001 so that stakeholders have a chance to evaluate the

pros and cons, costs and potential alternatives of such a move.

Commerce last summer announced plans to close NTIS because its core

function of selling government information is no longer needed, with many

agencies offering the same documents to the public for free on federal government

World Wide Web sites. NTIS collects, archives and sells scientific, technical,

engineering and related business information produced by or for the government.

It is required by law to cover all its expenses, but has had trouble remaining

profitable.

NCLIS also recommended that:

* Commerce be able to use the $4.5 million included in its supplemental

fiscal 2000 budget request to keep NTIS operational for the remainder of

this fiscal year.

* Congress should authorize $5 million for fiscal 2001 to sustain NTIS

operations at a satisfactory level of service.

* Commerce ensure that the final decision on the fate of NTIS is not

based exclusively on preventing the agency from falling into a deficit.

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