ARCHIVED: Concern with House FY 2001 Appropriations Cuts

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May 11, 2000

The Honorable Charles W. Taylor
Chairman
Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives
Room H-147, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing to express my profound concern and dismay with the appropriations cuts recommended by the Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations last week and agreed to by the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, May 9. The cuts will mean the reduction of 435 skilled GPO personnel and the elimination of public access to a significant body of Government information, and could jeopardize GPO's ability to support Congress' printing and information product needs.

Salaries and Expenses of the Superintendent of Documents. If enacted, the cut in this appropriation will have a disastrous impact on public access to Federal Government information by literally dismantling the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the Government's primary and longest-serving information dissemination activity. Every one of the 1,337 depository libraries nationwide will feel the following impacts, as will the estimated 9.5 million people who use these libraries every year:

 

  • The 60 percent reduction in this appropriation will force our library program staff to be cut by nearly two-thirds, affecting 85 skilled information and library specialists and distribution personnel. Many of these employees are recognized throughout the library and information community nationwide for their expertise in the Government information field. The loss of their skills and capabilities from the public access arena will be incalculable.

     

  • Altogether, public access to nearly 40,000 titles, or the majority of all titles made available through the program, will be affected. Approximately 25,000 of these titles are available in tangible format only, as determined by their issuing agencies, not the GPO. By requiring all information dissemination to be in online format only, the funding cut will terminate public access to these titles, abruptly ending public access to numerous critically important Government information products, including most congressional hearings. Public access via depository libraries to Census 2000 data that will be released in the near future on CD-ROM will also be eliminated.

     

  • Another 15,000 titles are available in both online and tangible formats, such as the U.S. Code and Supreme Court reports. While electronic access to these titles may continue, the public will not be able to use the printed products, which in many cases are the official, authentic versions of these documents. In an age when public access to these electronic documents is susceptible to a broad range of problems-from assurance of permanent availability to vulnerability to computer viruses-continued access in tangible formats remains absolutely essential. And it can be done for relatively little cost: the FDLP prints, catalogs, ships, and provides support services for all tangible formats for about $1.57 per copy, an incredibly efficient performance.

     

  • The funding cut will undermine public access to electronic Government information products. It will terminate virtually all depository library support services, including program administration, designations, product acquisition, classification, inspections, training, and consultative services. One of these services involves providing necessary locator services to online Government information products. Another involves working with agencies to ensure that new information products are usable by the public. Yet another involves establishing public/private partnerships to ensure the permanent availability of online Government information products. The loss of these services will be devastating to electronic public access both today and for the future.

     

The cut to the Salaries and Expenses Appropriation will have other impacts as well:

 

  • It will eliminate GPO's By-Law Distribution Program, under which certain publications specified by public law are distributed at the request of Members of Congress and Federal agencies. Agencies that receive statutory copies of publications under this program include the Library of Congress and the National Archives.

     

  • It will virtually eliminate the International Exchange Program. Under international treaty, this program pays for the distribution of U.S. Government publications to 71 foreign governments that agree, as indicated by the Library of Congress, to send to the Library similar publications of their governments. Without providing copies of publications for international exchange, the Library is not likely to receive copies of publications from foreign governments.

     

Mr. Chairman, at a cost of approximately $30 million annually-about 1 percent of the legislative branch budget, which is itself only a small fraction of the overall U.S. budget-the FDLP and associated programs provide the Nation's citizens with access to the most comprehensive range of Government information available, all under the direct control of the public's elected representatives in Congress. It is a well-managed program: only two years ago, the program was characterized as "a valuable public service" in the congressionally-directed management audit of GPO conducted by Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc. Most importantly, the FDLP is recognized both nationally and internationally as a model of how best to keep the public informed.

The funding reduction approved by the House Appropriations Committee, however, will destroy this program and along with it the Government's longstanding partnership with the American library community to provide the public with library-based access to Government information. I implore you to reconsider this decision and to restore our requested funding for this essential program and its associated functions.

Transfer of Superintendent of Documents Operations. The Committee has directed a study of the transfer of Superintendent of Documents operations to the Library of Congress. Part of this requirement is to transfer an electronic FDLP to the Library of Congress. However, we already transfer databases to the Library for use on Library systems, such as Thomas, so the need for the physical reorganization of these functions is not clear. Moreover, GPO Access is not created by the FDLP. The congressional and agency databases created for GPO Access-as well as transfer to Thomas-are the by-product of GPO's electronic printing systems. These are integral processes that cannot be transferred without transferring associated printing functions.

Other Superintendent of Documents programs that would be transferred would be the sales and agency distribution programs, under which GPO distributes publications, on a reimbursable basis, to recipients designated by Federal agencies. It is true that such a transfer was passed by the House in 1993, but only after it had been amended to transfer the right to bargain for wages along with the Superintendent of Documents' employees. However, when such a transfer was studied by the Library in 1994 and again in 1995, the Library expressed reservations due to its lack of experience in operating large-scale publications distribution programs. Also, the Library had reservations about separating the publications distribution function from GPO's production/procurement function, under which publications are obtained for sales and other distribution programs on a cost-effective basis with minimal administrative burden and cost. The removal of the distribution function from GPO could significantly increase the cost of making Government publications available to the public.

Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation. This appropriation will be reduced by $7.8 million, or 11 percent, from the current year level as the result of a directive not to print any products not associated with the direct legislative business of Congress. The Committee has specifically recommended the elimination of the Congressional Record Index (which will result in the abolishment of the Congressional Record Index office, whose personnel are appointed by the Joint Committee on Printing). Also eliminated will be the 2000 edition of the U.S. Code and other miscellaneous congressional publications such as the Congressional Directory, the congressional Serial Sets, memorial addresses, and nominations, as well as Our Flag and engineering and agricultural reports submitted by Federal agencies to Congress, which are printed as numbered documents. In addition, funding is cut for Senate distribution of copies of the Congressional Record to public agencies and institutions, blank paper for the Senate, and GPO details to Congress.

The elimination of funding for these and other publications "not absolutely essential to the day-to-day operations and legislative activities of the House and Senate" calls into question the availability of this appropriation for related products, such as printing for the January 2001 inauguration of the President; printing for other miscellaneous publications, including the Pictorial Guide, Economic Indicators, House and Senate telephone directories, and treaties; and printing for other numbered documents such as The Capitol Magazine, the quarterly Statements of Disbursements of the House and the semiannual Report of the Secretary of the Senate, as well as printing performed under resolutions (including the pocket Constitution, How Our Laws Are Made, and Our American Government).

When combined with the elimination of printing for depository libraries and the absence of funding to pay the 2001 COLA for GPO's crafts employees, as provided in wage contracts approved by the Joint Committee on Printing, these workload reductions will force the reduction of 350 production personnel, more than a quarter of our production staff, whose value to Congress-in providing essential congressional printing services and making electronic information available via GPO Access-has been praised time and again by the Members and leadership of both the House and the Senate. Not only are their printing crafts services essential to Congress, but these same personnel make Government information products available online via GPO Access, which is made available for the use of other online services, such as the Library of Congress' Thomas. The staffing cut that this appropriation will require could very conceivably impact our electronic information services, especially if a RIF-which is enormously disruptive to the workforce-is required to meet workforce reduction goals. Accordingly, I urge you to reconsider this funding cut and restore this appropriation to our requested levels.

Transfer of Congressional Printing Funding to House and Senate. The Committee recommends a study of the transfer of the Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate in 2003. However, it is not clear how such a transfer would be effected. For the past three years, the amount of this appropriation used by the House has averaged 38 percent. The amount used by the Senate has averaged 26 percent, while joint and other items, such as joint committees, the Congressional Record index, GPO's Congressional Printing Management Division, numbered documents authorized by both chambers (Our Flag, the pocket Constitution, etc.) have averaged 36 percent. It is not clear how these items would be divided between the two Houses. Similarly, it is not clear whether GPO would remain the Congress' source of printing and electronic information product services under this proposal, or to what degree Congress itself will experience increased costs and administrative burdens from the assumption of these new funds. Years ago, Congress created GPO's Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation to address all of these issues, and I strongly recommend that you reconsider this potentially unwieldy and costly transfer proposal.

GPO Revolving Fund. The Committee has not fulfilled GPO's request for $6 million for air conditioning improvements. Without an appropriation for this expensive project, the revolving fund will have to be used. As a result, the costs of the project will have to be recovered through printing rates charged to GPO's customers, including Congress. With less revenue coming in as a result of the appropriations reductions, the impact of this project on remaining revenues will be more significant.

Mr. Chairman, if these funding recommendations are enacted, they will significantly impair our ability to carry out our statutory mission, and they will profoundly impact the public's access to Government information. I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider them.

Sincerely,

MICHAEL F. DiMARIO
Public Printer

cc:

The Honorable Ed Pastor
Ranking Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable Zach Wamp
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable Kay Granger
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable John E. Peterson
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable John P. Murtha
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable Steny H. Hoyer
Member
House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations

The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
Chairman
House Appropriations Committee

The Honorable David Obey
Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee

The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
Chairman
Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee

The Honorable Ed Pastor
House of Representatives
Room 2465, Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Zach Wamp
House of Representatives
Room 423, Cannon Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
House of Representatives
Room 2112, Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kay Granger
House of Representatives
Room 435, Cannon Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John E. Peterson
House of Representatives
Room 307, Cannon Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John P. Murtha
House of Representatives
Room 2423, Rayburn Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny H. Hoyer
House of Representatives
Room 1216, Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
Room H-218, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable David Obey
Ranking Member
House Appropriations Committee
Room 1016, Longworth Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
Chairman
Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations
Room S-125, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations
Room S-206, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Ted Stevens
Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee
Room S-128, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
Room S-206, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510