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GPO Responds To e-LYNXX Call For More Federal Government Work To Private Sector Printers

Press release from the issuing company

The following is in response to this announcement made by e-LYNXX

The procurement of commercially obtainable federal printing by GPO on behalf of federal agencies has been a staple of our operations since the Second World War. Today, more than 78 percent of GPO’s printing revenue (exclusive of passport work) is from agencies for work procured by GPO from the private sector printing industry. GPO has a longstanding partnership with America’s printing industry to provide for the government’s printing needs. GPO competitively buys products and services from thousands of private sector firms nationwide in one of the government’s most successful procurement programs, assuring the most cost-effective use of the taxpayers’ printing dollar. More than 80 percent of the printing contracts GPO awards go to small businesses, supporting this vital sector of America’s economy.

This program makes good economic sense. As Mr. Gindlesperger notes, past studies have shown that the work GPO procures from the private sector is less expensive than work performed in federal agency plants. Utilization of GPO’s services by federal agencies also ensures that government publications and information products will be made available for dissemination to the public, and helps ensure the enforcement of laws and policies concerning recycled paper, vegetable oil-based inks, and other requirements.

GPO traditionally has supported maximizing the procurement of commercially procurable printing to the greatest extent possible, but we also traditionally have recognized the need of agencies to have some level of print production capability of their own. Some federal printing is specifically exempted by law from the requirement to use GPO, such as printing for the national security agencies. There is also some printing that is performed legitimately in agencies— limited, quick turnaround printing to support internal agency administrative operations—as authorized by waivers for internal plants issued in past years by the Joint Committee on Printing.

The problem comes when printing capabilities established for these purposes are expanded to produce printing needs that can and should be more cost-effectively performed through GPO’s procurement program. We agree with Mr. Gindlesperger that this problem is widespread, particularly as printing and duplicating technologies, which now include digital technologies, have emerged to provide agencies with expanded production capabilities. Over the years we have commented on this issue in testimony before Congress. Our view is that agencies should be equipped only with the capacity necessary to fulfill either their own limited administrative needs. Otherwise, unless there are extraordinary cases in which GPO is unable to fulfill a printing requirement or procure it from the private sector, the work should be sent to GPO.

Among the difficulties in enforcing this policy has been the absence of reliable data to measure how much and where the work that should be coming to GPO is actually being performed. Mr. Gindlesperger suggests that there may be $30 billion to $90 billion in current costs associated with non-GPO federal printing, but in our long association with this problem we’re not aware of costs anywhere near this magnitude for the annual value of authorized federal printing. A more supportable estimate is contained in the object class analysis for the fiscal year 2009 federal budget published by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This analysis indicates that printing and reproduction (object class 2400) for the federal government is estimated at $2.524 billion for FY 2009. Adjusting for possible double-counting of reimbursable obligations in these numbers (where GPO’s printing procurement program is concerned), it appears that GPO sees approximately half of all federal printing being performed today, an allocation that is roughly consistent with previous analyses of these numbers.

There are still a number of unknowns about these costs, however. OMB’s object class analysis only reports funds associated with printing and reproduction, and not necessarily all other costs associated with operating internal printing plants, such as personnel compensation and benefits; rents, communications and utilities; supplies and materials; depreciation on equipment, and so on.

At GPO, our revenues recover all of these costs, as with any business. In the agencies, however, it’s not clear whether the budgeted printing and reproduction costs cover all, just a part, or any of those costs. Most importantly, the numbers reported in the federal budget don’t distinguish how much federal printing is appropriately being performed in authorized facilities, and how much is being performed that can and should be sent to GPO for procurement. There is a way we can get a handle on this problem. Over the years, GPO has encouraged Congress to conduct a study to determine the extent of printing being performed in agencies that should come through GPO. The last such study was made in the early 1980s and its findings are of limited value today. The review could be performed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), or a GAO-recommended independent entity, with GPO assistance. The purpose would be to identify where federal printing is being performed other than through GPO, and to evaluate how much of the printing should be sent to GPO for procurement. Action could then be taken by GPO, federal agencies, OMB and the Joint Committee on Printing to ensure that this printing is performed through GPO. GPO’s approach is to work cooperatively and in partnership with federal agencies to ensure they are provided with an optimum package of services to meet their printing and information product needs, but there also is a compliance mechanism in section 501 of Title 44 which can be resorted to if necessary.

Mr. Gindlesperger rightly points out the economic benefits that the taxpayers enjoy when federal agencies procure their printing through GPO. Those benefits could be increased with greater procurement of printing through GPO, and an independent third-party study of federal printing will go a long way toward fulfilling that goal.