Editions   North America | Europe | Magazine


OMB Confirms Intention to Move Ahead On Printing Policy Despite Congress

Press release from the issuing company

July 22, 2002 (Reprinted with permission from The Bureau of National Affairs) -- Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels July 15 said the administration plans to push forward with a new government printing policy, despite Senate and House appropriations language advising against such a move. ''We're planning to go forward,'' Daniels told reporters when asked if the agency would back away from the plan. ''We think that's a long overdue step.'' OMB issued a memorandum May 3 urging government agencies to go directly to the private sector for printing jobs, circumventing the Government Printing Office, and ignoring Section 501 of Title 44 of the United States Code. OMB claims this will save the government $50-70 million annually, a figure disputed by both the GPO and key members of the Joint Committee on Printing, including Chairman Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Legal Action Considered Dayton was not surprised by Daniels's move forward, according to press secretary Sarah Howard. He announced at a July 10 JCP hearing that he would consider legal action to stop the OMB directive if it was pursued (134 DER A-3, 7/12/02). "We are looking into ways we can prevent the act, whether that be legislative or litigation," Howard said. She added that while Dayton could not file suit directly against OMB, "employees affected by the change" or individuals affected by public access to government documents could file suit. Dayton maintained that the OMB directive is illegal. "Changing FAR [the Federal Acquisition Regulation] to include printing does not change the fact there is a law on the books. That is simply not the way our government works," Howard said. Section 501 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code says printing of government publications should be done through GPO, but its constitutionality has been questioned. Compromise Not Likely The statement by Daniels would appear to dash the hopes of those who hoped the OMB, in the face of congressional pressure, would back off the proposal in favor of working with the GPO on changes. "We think the essence of what they want to do is find a way to make the purchase of printing as convenient as possible, and put them [the agencies] in as close contact with the printers as possible," Benjamin Cooper, executive vice president of Printing Industries of America, a graphic arts trade association headquartered in Alexandria, Va. "My hope is that they [OMB] would take a step back and take another look. We would like to see the OMB address internal printing they [GPO] do, and ensure the agencies get 'best value contracts.' This is an area the OMB can focus on that will satisfy executive concerns without messing with low bids," Cooper said. Andrew Sherman, director of the Office of Public Affairs at GPO said outgoing public printer Michael DiMario would be interested in working with the OMB on concerns over GPO's bidding practices, but added that they were never contacted during the OMB examination into GPO's charges to agencies. GPO contracts on behalf of agencies and charges them around 7 percent for most jobs. About 84 percent of government printing is done by outside printers. GPO contests OMB's savings predictions, saying that its procurement charges to other agencies are $32.5 million annually. "If there is a way we can sit down with agencies and government procurement industries, we will do this," Sherman said. "We're willing to make changes that people are looking to make, but we're not willing to comply with what the OMB wants." Appropriations Committees Wary The push forward by Daniels comes despite recent language in both Senate and House appropriations bills discouraging action (135 DER A-9, 7/15/02). The language approved in the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee states that the committee "strongly opposes" OMB's plans, and further states it may actually increase government costs from the current $231 million to $335 million. The language in the House Treasury Postal Appropriations bill, introduced by Hoyer, questioned both economic and public access aspects of the OMB proposal, and required OMB to present its plan before the committee within 30 days. Hoyer reacted strongly to Daniels' announcement to go ahead with the OMB plan. "Mitch Daniels' comments do nothing more than make him the third OMB director to try to defy the law on this issue. I am going to continue to insist that the OMB prove that his proposal will save money and safeguard public access to government documents," Hoyer said. OMB Confident Daniels said the Bush administration believes in the value of the overall policy and has no interest in who ultimately wins the printing contacts. "We feel it's an important proposal to ensure taxpayers get the most for their money," OMB press secretary Amy Call said. "They [the GPO] can bid on these jobs. If they are the lowest price, then they will win bids." OMB refutes accusations it is breaking the law based on a 1996 Clinton administration Justice Department ruling that found it unconstitutional to require government agencies to go through the GPO for printing needs. Call added that the OMB is working to get Federal Acquisition Regulations amended to allow agencies to put printing in budgets, and this should go through sometime in the fall. Agencies not subject to FAR must comply with the OMB proposal by Sept. 1. By Libby George, Copyright (c) 2002 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C. Reproduced with permission from Daily Report for Executives, No. 136, pp. A-31 - A-32 (July 16, 2002). Copyright 2002 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)