Daniels, GPO Settle Printing Dispute

Posted March 28, 2003 at 5:24pm

Public Printer Bruce James announced Thursday a settlement in the dispute between the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Printing Office regarding the latter’s authority over executive agency printing.

“We reached an agreement to set aside the contention between our agencies regarding Federal printing policy,” James said in his written testimony for the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch.

The conflict between the budget office and GPO ignited in May 2001, when OMB Director Mitch Daniels issued a memorandum seeking to dismantle regulations that require federal agencies to use GPO for printing services.

GPO officials defended their authority, citing Title 44 of the U.S. Code, which gives the agency responsibility for the printing and information dissemination needs of Congress, as well as nearly 130 departments and agencies.

In the ensuing spat, OMB began the formal process to alter the federal regulations while also breaking from a long-standing tradition by seeking bids for the Bush administration’s 2004 budget from private printers.

In an attempt to block the proposed changes, Congress inserted language into several continuing resolutions that prohibited executive branch agencies from using appropriated funds to violate Title 44.

Now, however, many of those actions appear to be void, following a meeting between Daniels and James, who took office in December.

“I have asked Mr. Daniels to walk forward with me as we establish the facts about printing and information dissemination and devise a policy that fits the 21st century, and I look forward to working with OMB on this important task,” James wrote.

It is not clear whether OMB will need to formally halt its proposal to change the regulations. For now, though, the dispute has “abated,” said GPO spokesman Andrew Sherman.

He described the pair as having “a good relationship” and an open line of communication.

The agreement stems in part from James’ plans for reorganizing the printing office and creating a “21st century business model.”

Among the changes already implemented, James has directed Deputy Public Printer George Taylor to serve as a chief operating officer, controlling the day-to-day operations, a role the public printer has traditionally fulfilled.

Additionally, GPO plans to reduce its staff by 300 in fiscal 2004. And the agency is requesting $10 million to create retirement incentives. Nearly 52 percent of GPO’s workforce is current eligibility for retirement.

“We’re looking for a painless way to downsize,” James said. The agency estimates the cuts will save $18 million in fiscal 2005.

However, GPO will continue to focus on its new recruitment program. “We’ll be selectively adding back in the skills that are required for the future,” James said.

Additionally, the agency is seeking $4.1 million to upgrade its search and retrieval system, GPO Access, which provides public access to nearly 250,000 publications. The system was first installed in 1994.