Before skipping town on Thursday night, the Senate confirmed Davita Vance-Cooks to serve as public printer of the Government Printing Office, a position she’s held on an acting basis since Jan. 3, 2012.
President Barack Obama nominated Vance-Cooks for the position on May 8. The Senate Rules and Administration Committee advanced the nomination on July 24. Vance-Cooks’ confirmation marks the swiftest Senate action on a public printer nominee in nearly 20 years, GPO said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with everyone who shares a stake in our historic mission of ‘Keeping America Informed’ as we continue transitioning our products and services to meet the needs of Congress, federal agencies, and the public in this digital age,” Vance-Cooks said in a statement issued today.
Her nomination is historic: Vance-Cooks becomes both the first female and first African-American public printer.
She also confronts some of the tightest financial constraints in the agency’s 152-year history. Like other legislative branch agencies, GPO faces sequester-induced spending cuts. Its revenues are further constricted as federal agency customers cope with tighter budgets by ordering less printing.
Summarizing the challenges during her June 12 Senate confirmation hearing, Vance-Cooks said GPO operates “in an environment that is dominated by constantly evolving technology, rapidly changing stakeholder expectations, an ongoing shift to digital content via multiple formats and devices and financial budget pressure.”
She vowed to lead the GPO with a financial program based on “doing more with less.” During her 19 months as acting public printer, GPO managed to complete fiscal 2012 with a positive net income and reduce overhead costs to 2008 levels.
The agency requested $128 million for fiscal 2014, but both chambers’ spending proposals fall short of that mark. A spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 11 includes $119 million for the GPO, a slight increase from fiscal 2013 enacted levels. A House version of the bill, approved by committee on July 18, would provide $115 million, trimming nearly $4 million from the agency’s 2013 budget.
Vance-Cooks outlined plans to confront the sequester during a Feb. 26 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The agency stood prepared to freeze hiring, overtime and bonuses, cut outside training and administrative travel, and pare back maintenance to cover only the most pressing concerns. GPO might also have to cut back on technology, a move she warned would delay the development of digital products and services, such as mobile apps for Congress and federal agencies. A workforce furlough might also be required, she said.
Vance-Cooks has been with the GPO since 2004 and held various management positions, including managing director of publications and information sales, chief of staff and deputy public printer. She has also held executive positions with NYLCare MidAtlantic Health Plan and HTH Worldwide Insurance Services. Vance-Cooks has a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and an MBA from Columbia University.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.