Next Stop, GPO

Hill Veteran Charged With Securing Agency’s Technical Resources

Posted June 20, 2003 at 1:10pm

Since veteran Capitol Hill staffer Reynold Schweickhardt jumped to the Government Printing Office this spring, he’s noticed at least one major difference: fewer visitors.

“The GPO, for some reason, is a little less of a tourist destination in Washington than the Capitol,” quips Schweickhardt, now policy adviser for the printing agency’s information resources management division.

The former Californian moved to GPO’s offices on North Capitol Street in March, after more than seven years at the House Administration Committee where he guided numerous changes in technology used by Members and their staffs.

During his tenure as the panel’s director of technology, Schweickhardt oversaw the implementation of wireless BlackBerry e-mail devices for Members, a pilot program for digital mail.

“I had helped the House a great deal in the past seven and half years,” Schweickhardt said, “and there comes a point when you start to look for new challenges and new opportunities.”

Schweickhardt said his move was, in part, spurred by Public Printer Bruce James. Since taking the agency’s helm in January, James has begun restructuring the agency, including a push to disseminate more information in an electronic format.

“We have a number of assignments to complete that transition and figure out how to maximize value to the Congress and to the American people in the GPO mission, so it’s pretty dynamic,” Schweickhardt said.

Among his new responsibilities, Schweickhardt is charged with security for GPO’s information technology resources.

Much as he did while on the Hill, Schweickhardt must confront security risks created by changes in technology, such as cellular telephones and wireless email. Those changes, he notes, must be addressed while also maintaining public access to government documents, a major component of GPO’s mission.

“If we were in some intelligence agency, you could achieve security by locking the doors and not letting anyone into the building,” Schweickhardt said. “Our challenge is to keep the historical record accurate and untampered with … and at the same time inviting a great deal of public access.”

In line with those goals, GPO must also find ways to ensure permanent public access to its documents as the agency transitions to storing more information electronically and printing fewer documents, he said.

At the Federal Depository Libraries “you can find publications that GPO produced in the 1800s that are available today. And if you wanted to go back and look at electronic databases from before Y2K, for example, it would be very difficult to do that,” Schweickhardt said. “… As we go from paper to electronic, it’s ironic, but high quality paper in permanent books is still the only medium for preservation that’s really been proven over the century.”

For now, though, Schweickhardt is focused on the creation of GPO’s new Web-based procurement system, a pilot program created by an agreement with the Office of Management and Budget to provide printing to executive branch agencies. The program is set to begin Oct. 1.

“That’s what I wake up at 3 a.m. in the morning and worry about nowadays,” he joked.

Even in his new post, Schweickhardt remains active on the Hill working with both the House Administration and Joint Printing committees.

“Really what’s important, I think, is to keep in mind that GPO is a legislative branch agency, that a lot of our work is directly tied to the function of the House and the Senate. We need to do a very good job of keeping in communication, of keeping in touch not only with the committee but with the officers in the Senate and the House,” Schweickhardt said.

“I find that it’s helpful to have participated in some of the technology that the House deployed,” he added.” It’s always a little better when you’ve got sort of a 360-degree view, it helps you to be a little bit more effective.”

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who chairs both the Administration and Printing panels, praised Schweickhardt, noting his “institutional history” with the chamber.

“I have been tremendously impressed with Bruce James. He’s the closest we’ve gotten in years to have substantial changes at GPO,” Ney said. “When he hired Reynold Schweickhardt, he got a good one there. Reynold was part and parcel, between [Rep.] Bill Thomas’ [R-Calif.] chairmanship and mine, of all the technology you see.”

Suzanne Nelson contributed to this report.