GPO’s budget request may come down to priorities

GPO puts content over form in FDSys

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 The Government Printing Office may have to decide whether its move to digital technology is a “must-have” project or a “nice-to-have” project in fiscal 2008.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Legislative Branch Subcommittee, earlier this week told William Turri, acting public printer, that GPO's request for $182 million more money next year may be hard to meet.

“I need to know what you have to have, not what you want to have, because of the tightness of the budget,” Wasserman Schultz said during a hearing on GPO’s 2008 budget request. “We are trying to fund your essential needs.”

Turri said that the increase is mostly due to the extra printing and binding GPO must do for Congress. He said GPO’s budget is estimated to increase by $110 million to meet lawmakers’ needs because they are expected to work more days than the previous Congres.

“We have been flat-funded in 2006 at $88 million and we went over that by a few million, which we funded ourselves,” Turri told the panel of lawmakers. “We project that we will be short about $8 million in 2007 and that will not change in 2008.”

Part of the reason for the rising costs also is the mandate to reprint the U.S. Code of Regulations, which will cost about $5 million, Turri said.

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the subcommittee, asked how the yearlong continuing resolution has affected GPO’s budget. Turri said Congress flat-funded GPO in fiscal 2007 as well.

Turri added that GPO will likely pay for the shortfall with existing unused money but needs congressional approval to reprogram the funding.

GPO also will need about $10.5 million to finish its Future Digital System project, he said. GPO expects to release its initial capabilities in December, said Mike Wash, the agency’s chief technical officer.

“We told Congress this would cost us $29 million, and we spent $18.5 million last year, and we want to spend $10 million next year,” Turri said. “The project is on time and on budget.”

Wash added that the $10.5 million request is part of GPO’s overall $19 million information technology needs. These include spending $2 million to replace its Microcomposition System, which receives and stores congressional records; $3 million to upgrade its administrative business system to Oracle; and $3.5 million for network infrastructure improvements.

The system is in most need of an upgrade, GPO officials said. It is a 30-year-old system that has been patched and updated several times, but it does not do a good job of meeting congressional needs, Turri said.

Robert Tapella, GPO’s chief of staff, added that the agency expects to save money by updating the system because the manual time it takes to get documents into the system will decrease.

“The chairwoman is right,” Wamp said. “We have a hard time putting the puzzle together because there are more pieces than can fit. If you come back with priorities, that will help.”

Wasserman Schultz added that the focus has to be on GPO’s mission of printing first and foremost, and the transformation aspects, while still important, are secondary.

“What happens to the systems if we can’t fund it?” she asked.

Wash said 92 percent of all documents are already available online so the accessibility will not be hampered, but the plans to add capabilities could be affected.


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