Washington Brief - September 2002

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Dateline: July 31, 2002

OMB Memorandum M-02-07
OMB Director Mitch Daniels issued a Memorandum to Executive Departments and Agencies on May 3, 2002 that will allow agencies to procure their own printing and duplicating outside of the Government Printing Office (GPO). The Memorandum notes that "GPO's monopoly-like role in providing printing services perpetuates inefficiency because it permits GPO to be insulated from market forces and does not provide incentives to improve operations." Daniels appears not to recognize that GPO has a well-established centralized and open competitive procurement system that is supported by the Printing Industries of America as a means to ensure that even small and disadvantaged printers are able to compete for jobs with large printing firms. The Memorandum's final footnote, "Departments and agencies shall continue to ensure that all government publications, as defined in 44 U.S.C. Part 19, are made available to the depository library program through the Superintendent of Documents," seems like an afterthought because it includes no information or details on how agencies would comply. Similar efforts in 1987 and 1994 were strongly opposed by members of the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) and thus never took effect. AALL is very concerned with the proposal because while GPO has moved forward dramatically into the electronic environment, there continue to be approximately 15,000 tangible titles, mostly from executive branch agencies, that are distributed each year to depository libraries.

JCP Hearing on OMB Memorandum
The Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), chaired by Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota, held an important hearing on the OMB Memorandum on July 10th. While nothing in the testimonies of the witnesses came as a surprise to us, it was standing room only in the hearing room and many members of the press were on hand. It was especially gratifying that six JCP members were also present: Chairman Mark Dayton (D-MN), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) from the Senate; and Vice Chairman Robert Ney (R-OH), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) from the House. Each of the members expressed support for the FDLP, depository libraries, and several mentioned the problem of fugitive documents in their opening comments.

The first witness was OMB Director Mitch Daniels who informed members of the JCP that the Administration intends to move forward on implementing the plan through a revision to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) following a period of notice and comment. Daniels stated that the current level of dissemination and the high number of executive branch fugitive documents is "intolerable." In order to resolve the fugitive documents problem, he promised: first, to direct all agencies that do in-house printing to transmit copies to the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs); and second, to ask the FAR Council to add to all contracts the responsibility of the printer to transmit copies to SuDocs. Chairman Dayton made it very clear to Daniels that Title 44 §501 of the United States Code requires Federal agencies in the executive branch to use GPO for their printing and procurement needs. He warned that agency non-compliance with the statute might have to be resolved by the courts. There were many curt questions directed to Daniels by JCP members that demonstrated their displeasure with the Memorandum.

The second panel consisted of Public Printer Mike DiMario, Superintendent of Documents Fran Buckley, and Chief Comptroller Bruce Holstein from GPO who spoke strongly against the Memorandum. During Q&A, DiMario called OMB's assertion that the government would save $50-70 million if agencies could do their own procurement as "fiction." Expressing his concern about fugitive documents, Dayton asked if there was a growing trend toward greater agency non-compliance with procurement through GPO. DiMario said the biggest problem today is agencies who use their web sites for publishing and remove important titles without capturing them for permanent public access.

The third panel consisted of Benjamin Cooper, Printing Industries of America; Bill Boarman, Communications Workers of America; and Julie Wallace representing AALL, ALA, ARL and MLA. Like the GPO panel, all three witnesses expressed strong opposition. Julie Wallace summarized our long statement and represented depository libraries and users very well. Her comments focused on three main points:

First, that Federal agencies benefit by the transparent link that GPO currently provides between procuring agency publications and disseminating government publications to the public;

Second, that the American people benefit when agency publications are disseminated through GPO to local Federal depository libraries in each congressional district across the country, where the public then has equal, efficient and ready access to that information; and,

Third, that it is clear that the OMB directive will lead to more fugitive publications and less public access to government information. This comes at a time when Congress, the Executive Branch and the courts instead should be working together to improve public access and to meet the challenges of the electronic environment, particularly regarding the permanent public access to and preservation of electronic government information.

We had prepared well for the hearing, having visited with staff of all the JCP members and the appropriations subcommittees in June. In addition, I worked very closely with Sen. Dayton's staff to educate them on the serious negative impact of the Memorandum on public access and the FDLP, and I drafted the joint library statement.

Post-Hearing Support for GPO
On July 11th, the day following the JCP hearing, both House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees marked-up their FY 2003 budgets for GPO. The House cut $2.5 million but the Senate gave GPO their full funding request. The differences will be worked out in conference. We were especially pleased to see in both subcommittee reports strong language opposing the OMB Memorandum. The following excerpt is from S. Report 107-209: "The Committee strongly opposes the Office of Management and Budget's plans... to ignore the statutory requirements that the printing and publishing of government publications must be conducted through the GPO.....The Committee directs the administration to abide by the statutory requirement, Section 501 of Title 44 United States Code, that printing be done by or through the GPO."

The AALL 2002 PAGI Award
The General Services Administration's FirstGov.gov portal (http://www.firstgov.gov/) is the 2002 recipient of AALL's Public Access to Government Information Award (PAGI). Patricia B. Wood of the Office of FirstGov at GSA was on hand to receive the prestigious commendation from Awards Committee Chair John Hasko during the 2002 Orlando meeting. FirstGov.gov went online in September 2000 as a single site to help citizens, businesses and government employees-federal state, local and tribal-connect with the federal government. President Bush has supported the FirstGov efforts with funding in FY 2002 and 2003, calling it the "essential building block" for electronic government. FirstGov recently launched a new search engine that is capable of retrieving documents in PDF, Microsoft Word, Excel or HTML formats and that will allow users to search agency databases on a limited scale. Each year, the Government Relations Committee fields nominations for the PAGI Award and sends its recommendations to the Awards Committee. The AALL press release announcing FirstGov as the 2002 PAGI recipient is at http://www.aallnet.org/press/press020718_a.asp.

 



Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202
email:baish@law.georgetown.edu