Public Printer Bill Boarman said the "challenging economic times" forced the agency to seek ways to survive.
In response to projected budget cuts, the Government Printing Office plans to eliminate 330 jobs, including 25 percent of its management positions.
The agency sent requests to Congress and the Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday seeking permission to offer buyouts and early retirement to its staff of 2,200. Approval is expected, with buyouts to come this fall.
Senior managers, union leaders and employees were also notified that more changes are to come as the agency begins overhauling its workforce.
"These challenging economic times have no boundaries and are forcing many federal agencies to seek ways to survive," Public Printer Bill Boarman said in a press release.
In April, Congress cut $12 million from the agency's budget, leaving $135.3 million for this fiscal year. Agency officials said they expect even greater cuts in next year's budget.
Some of this year's funding may pay for the buyouts if they are approved. Under the plan, employees will be asked to leave voluntarily in exchange for up to $25,000, based on a formula related to their salary. All workers are eligible, but they will have to apply and receive managerial approval.
If the GPO meets it goal of reducing 15 percent of its staff, officials estimate the agency will save $16.5 million in fiscal 2012 and $33 million in years to come. GPO representatives said they expect Congress to approve the plan, which comes as lawmakers question the agency's relevance in the age of the Internet.
In January, the House unanimously passed the Stop the OverPrinting Act to reduce the number of printed hard copies of hefty bills. Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) have also introduced a bill to eliminate excessive printing of the Congressional Record.
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have questioned whether the agency even needs to exist.
GPO representatives said the office serves vital roles beyond printing materials. Much of its budget already goes to creating digital resources, indexing and preserving official information.
The buyouts are also part of a plan to streamline operations as government becomes increasingly digital.
"There's a larger plan to this as far as the agency's future," spokesman Gary Somerset said. "In terms of the overall agency mission and critical operations, GPO believes that these reductions will not compromise that."
Unlike previous buyouts at the GPO, the positions eliminated this time around are not expected to be filled again. From 2003 to 2005, 631 employees took buyouts to leave the agency, but many were subsequently replaced.
"While we did reduce the workforce, we really didn't restructure the organization in a meaningful way during that time frame," said Bill Harris, the agency's chief human capital officer.
Correction: June 9, 2011
The original version of this article misstated the GPO's budget for the current fiscal year. It is $135.3 million.