Printing office embraces Web

When faced with complex policy problems, Congress often appoints special commissions to study them and offer advice.

Traditionally, the commissions exist for a year or two, hold hearings, call expert witnesses, then write a thick report and deliver copies to the president and Congress. Typically, commissions' work attracts little attention and the final report gathers dust on a shelf.

But the Internet and the Government Printing Office may be changing that.

GPO recently unveiled its newest Internet addition, www.uscc.gov, the U.S.-China Security Review Commission Web site. The commission was created last fall by Congress to fall to study the national security implications of trade and economic ties between the United States and China, and its Web site will post commission business — meeting schedules, transcripts, press releases, members' biographies and more.

And GPO promises to post the information "in perpetuity."

As the government's publisher, GPO is embracing the Internet as a better way to do business. Putting government information online "makes it easier for the public to keep up with what goes on," said Michael Bright, a GPO spokesman. "It's easier to see when hearings are held, to find draft copies of reports, to pull up transcripts," he said.

Curious about the findings of the 1996 National Gambling Impact Study Commission? The commission's work has been preserved by GPO at www.ngisc.gov/index.html.

Congress created similar commissions to examine the trade deficit, bankruptcy and mine safety. There are permanent commissions as well, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

In all, GPO hosts 17 sites, including Web sites for permanent government entities such as the Supreme Court, the Office of Government Ethics and the Office of Compliance, an agency created in 1995 to protect the rights of employees of the legislative branch of the federal government.

"We're actively soliciting more business," Bright said. "We've got the servers, we've got the bandwidth and we've got people skilled in developing and maintaining sites. Any government unit interested in having web site" can have it done by GPO, he said.

In addition to its Web sites, GPO offers the public a wealth of government information online, including federal databases, thousands of agency files, the Federal Register, the Congressional Record and Commerce Business Daily.

Overall, GPO has posted more than 200,000 documents and averages 30 million document downloads each month, Bright said.

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