GPO wants modernization money

GAO report: Technological Changes Create Transformation Opportunities

Future financing for the Government Printing Office is precarious, in large part because of changes in the printing industry. Soon those changes will force the agency to reinvent itself, the public printer told lawmakers this week.

Five years of significant, sustained financial losses have virtually depleted the savings that would otherwise have been available for the agency's modernization plans, Bruce James, the public printer, testified before members of the House Administration Committee.

Consequently, agency officials need a $25 million appropriation to carry out their plans for transforming GPO. The printer of government documents must become an electronic distributor of government information, James said.

The transformation is already under way. Members of the public use the GPO Access Web site to download more than 35 million documents at no charge each month. But a General Accounting Office study has found the public to be mostly unaware that GPO offers other services including design, hosting and digital asset management.

"We are now in a period where we need to sort out what continues to belong in print and what best belongs in electronic information retrieval systems," James testified.

GPO officials say they are clear about the agency's future course. They must take a lead in creating digital standards for government documents, James said. It must also work with its library partners to create a fully digital database for the Federal Depository Library Program.

In the past year, GPO saved $1.5 million by closing its least used retail bookstores, James said. At the same time, the agency began planning to relocate to a modern facility in the District of Columbia by 2007.

James also reported significant personnel savings. In the past year, he said, GPO saved $21.7 million by cutting its workforce 10 percent, or 300 positions, through a voluntary separation incentive program.

GPO officials have received approval from the Joint Committee on Printing for offering another voluntary separation program that would cut 250 positions and save $16.5 million in 2005, James said.

GPO's fiscal 2005 budget request for $151 million will, among other things, let the agency continue its congressional printing and binding operations as required, acquire a digital information processing facility, provide separate funds for the GPO's Inspector General Office and modernize its business practices.

In a separate appropriations hearing this week, James summarized his view of the agency's strategic plan. GPO, he said, has a vastly expanded role to play in managing content and authenticating documents. Said James: "The 19th century is not coming back."

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