Skip Main Navigation
Office of Management and Budget
President's Budget
Information &
Regulatory Affairs
Legislative Information
Agency Information








April 30, 1997

I am pleased to appear before this Committee once again to discuss the future role of the Government Printing Office (GPO) and ways of more effectively managing the Government's printing and information dissemination activities. I want to join those who have expressed appreciation for this series of hearings and for your leadership in beginning work on a piece of legislation that can serve as a basis for long-needed reform.

The Administration strongly endorses the Committee's resolve to update the printing and related provisions of Title 44 to assure that Congress' mandate for an informed citizenry is met in the face of advancing technology. In his recent report "Access America: Reengineering Through Information Technology," Vice-President Gore stated that information technology "will make it easier for users of information, including citizens, scientists, resource managers, and private industry" to find the specific government information they need."(1)

This Committee clearly recognizes that information technology is changing the way words and images are put on paper and in many instances eliminating the paper altogether. Electronic databases, personal computers, off-the-shelf software, laser printers and other, more sophisticated technology provide the creators of information increasing flexibility to deliver it when and where it is needed. Our present challenge is to develop a management structure to ensure that government information is handled and disseminated to the maximum benefit of the taxpayers. This draft legislation is a positive step toward meeting this challenge.

Solving the problem

The printing provisions now contained in Title 44 of the United States Code date back to a time when economies of industrial scale dictated a large centralized printing plant to serve all of the government. They also reflect a time when government information existed solely in paper form, justifying tying the centralized printing to a centralized distribution system where the publications would be physically assembled and shipped to libraries nationwide.

Today, there is a highly competitive printing industry available to serve the government's needs in a cost effective manner. Advances in information technology are not only improving the efficiency of this industry but also improving the government's information dissemination practices. Notwithstanding the benefits of these technological advances, however, we continue to want paper. The need then is to update the system, not discard or dismantle it. And in doing so we must recognize the important equities of labor organizations, Congress's own printing customs, the depository libraries, the private sector printing industry, the information industry, and the general public. Reform also presents the opportunity to put to rest longstanding separation of powers concerns.

As former OMB Director Alice Rivlin testified in 1994, and as I testified in 1995 and again in 1996, three problems must be addressed if we are to have a successful transition:

-- the Constitutional issues described by the Justice Department must be resolved;

-- the Government Printing Office must be put on a firmer and more businesslike footing; and,

-- mechanisms must be developed to preserve and enhance the role of the Depository Library Program.

The Administration believes that the draft legislation goes a long way towards solving these problems.

First, by establishing the Government Printing Office as an agency that is not controlled by Congress, the long-standing separation of powers issue can be resolved. This point will be discussed further by my colleague from the Justice Department.

Second, by permitting the Executive branch to determine its own printing policies, there will be greater flexibility to transition carefully, humanely, and cost- effectively to a more electronic way of doing business. The Government Printing Office has often been criticized as old-fashioned in its business practices, and too often not able to adequately understand and hence respond to the needs of its client agencies.

This legislation would lead to Executive branch printing policy that is developed in closer cooperation with the customer agencies. We expect that the policy would also include a strong commitment to use the cost-effective services of the private sector through an open and competitive bidding process that permits direct consultation between vendors and the customer agencies. One salutary effect will be to facilitate downsizing and consolidating the in-house printing and duplicating capacity of the government.

More generally, the advisory council structure envisioned by Section 205 of the draft legislation would serve as a mechanism for all interested parties -- including the agencies, the printing industry, labor, and the library community -- to have input into policy development and implementation. This will help a reconstituted Government Printing Office to be much more responsive to both business requirements and technological change.

Third, and of equal importance to the first two, by emphasizing the importance of access to government information, and by reaffirming the function performed by the Superintendent of Documents, Congress is signaling its intent to preserve the Depository Library Program. This is, in fact, the greatest challenge we face with any comprehensive reform of Title 44 -- namely, to ensure that the electronic bookshelves of the 21st Century are continuously restocked. Simply stated, the program must be redefined to permit us to migrate toward a more electronic government, while solving the "fugitive" document problem.

The task is to develop a framework to enable this transition. The single sentence in the draft legislation requiring that all government information of informative value to the public must be accessible through the library program is not sufficient. At the other end of the spectrum, the legislation should not specify the particular technologies and standards to be used. Rather, we believe that the Congress should articulate in the draft legislation a vision of the Depository Library Program and the way it will look several decades from now, providing Congressional imprimatur to a flexible framework within which agencies can operate now and in the future.

We look to a future that relies at least in part on distributed network-based information dissemination -- for example by using the Internet and the World-Wide Web -- in lieu of physically handling and housing great volumes of paper publications. We need not be threatened by decentralized dissemination, aided by advanced search capabilities, data warehousing, and distributed networks, so long as there is an appropriate coordinating and oversight mechanism.

The result may look similar to the government's new information technology model itself -- centralized policy oversight with distributed management, operations, and accountability. The Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 (P.L.104-106, Div. E)(ITMRA) replaced a thirty-year system of centralized policy and operational micro management with a system empowering agencies to manage their own information technology investments, while at the same time holding them accountable. The Act established agency Chief Information Officers -- who report directly to their agency heads -- as the responsible focal points for information resources management, including compliance with statutory public information dissemination requirements.

Based on our initial experience under ITMRA, we would suggest that the draft legislation should link the requirements regarding printing and information dissemination to the other information resources management responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer. Within that framework, Executive branch printing policy implementing the legislation could require the agencies to cooperate with the Superintendent of Documents so that adequate copies of all appropriate government documents would be available for distribution to the Depository Library Program.

Finally, I note that the draft legislation would retain the present approach of annual appropriations to support the operation of the program. The Superintendent of Documents would make appropriate arrangements to ride agency print and other orders in precisely the same manner as is done today with the printing operations at the Government Printing Office.

Perfecting the draft legislation

In addition to our interest in working with you to assist in helping the depository library program transition to a more electronic environment in a manner that best serves the needs of the citizenry, there are a number of specific areas that need to be addressed in the draft legislation.

  • We have strong concerns that Sections 104 and 105 would have a chilling effect on government information production and dissemination. For example, the science agencies point out that the Section 104 prohibition on government employees receiving a "benefit" including "personal attribution or personal recognition" would stifle scientific research by prohibiting their staff from submitting work to even the most respected journals and receiving well deserved professional recognition for it. We believe an approach to accountability such as that outlined above would be preferable.

The Administration is concerned that Section 202 would grant the public printer a five year term of office, during which the printer would be removable only "for cause, including incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance." One of the important goals of this Administration has been to reinvent the federal government to make it more accountable to the public. Indeed, the very structure of our Constitution is designed to achieve accountability in government action.(2) Granting a federal official "for cause" removal protection actually insulates the official from any requirement that he or she be responsive to public concerns and extinguishes an important mechanism -- the threat of removal by the President -- for bringing public opinion and accountability to bear in government decisionmaking. This concern is particularly relevant where, as here, the public interest at stake is access by the citizenry to government information.

Section 207 of the draft legislation would require a reconstituted GPO, as an Executive branch agency, to submit its annual budget request concurrently to the President and Congress. The Administration opposes this provision because it runs counter to the Executive budget process as codified in the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, as amended, and could limit the flexibility of the President in allocating resources in light of Administration priorities for the Government as a whole.

Section 203 raises an issue of potential overlap of GPO's responsibilities with those of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under Title 44 for ensuring adequate and proper documentation of the policies and transactions of the Federal government; and for preserving those records determined as having continuing value. We must ensure that the definitions in the draft legislation not be subject to differing interpretations, and that NARA's authorities are not compromised.

Section 402 seems to provide that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) would not apply to acquisition of printing. As I have testified before, we see no reason that printing should not be procured like any other goods or services. To the extent that there may be particular printing issues, e.g. dollar thresholds for small purchases, these can be addressed specifically. Indeed, the FAR has recently been amended to provide for Electronic Commerce in procurement, so the stage is already set for improved efficiencies.

44 U.S.C. 303 now provides for pay for the Public Printer at Level III of the Executive Schedule and for the Deputy Public Printer at Level IV of the Executive Schedule. Should GPO become an Executive branch agency, 5 U.S.C. 5314 would need to be amended to include the Public Printer at Level III of the Executive Schedule. Further, since the Deputy Public Printer position would meet the requirements for inclusion in the SES, 44 U.S. C. 303 can be repealed. In addition, other sections of Title 44 dealing with GPO personnel, particularly sections 305, 306, and 316, will need to be reviewed and possibly revised.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to share my views on this important legislative initiative. I look forward to working with you towards our shared goal.

1. "Access America: Reengineering through Information Technology," National Performance Review, February 3, 1993.

2. See, e.g., Myers v. United States</ u>, 272 U.S. 52 (1926); New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992); Freytag v. Commissioner, 501 U.S. 864, 884 (1991); see also The Federalist No. 70, at 476 (Alexander Hamilton)(Jacob E. Cooke ed., 1961).