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Bush Seeks to End GPO's $500 Million Monopoly on Printing Work

Press release from the issuing company

Plan would allow federal agencies to legally bypass the GPO when seeking print work. May 6, 2002 -- (*WhatTheyThink.com) -- The Bush administration is set to require bids on $500 million in yearly print contracts according to multiple reports by the media including the Associated Press. A memo sent to federal agencies by budget director, Mitch Daniels said, “The time has come for the executive branch to liberate its agencies from a monopoly that unfairly penalizes both taxpayers and efficient would-be competitors.” Daniels’ office estimates that the government would save up to $70 million a year with the new program. Currently, the Government Printing Office (GPO) brokers many print jobs out for federal agencies and has to charge special fees to cover their expenses. Under the new plan, private companies AND the GPO could bid for the work. In March, President Bush announced his “intention to nominate” Bruce James as the next Public Printer of the United States. The Public Printer is the official title of the head of the GPO. The agency is unique in that the Public Printer is nominated by the President, must be confirmed by the Senate, and when confirmed becomes an employee of Congress. This unusual arrangement has created difficulties for the agency in recent years according to the Printing Industries of America (PIA). In April, PIA’s board endorsed James’ nomination. Chuck Stay, President of Bert-Co Graphics and Board Chairman for PIA said, "We are fortunate to have a man of Bruce’s caliber joining the Bush administration. Working with Bruce James for many years, as fellow PIA members, Bruce has demonstrated strong support of the printing industry and has served his industry and community in many ways throughout his career. The Government Printing Office has a wealth of opportunities for printers across the nation and with Bruce at the helm we are certain that the GPO will be far better for it." The GPO’s share of federal printing has declined in recent years particularly among Executive Branch agencies. The PIA says many agencies already bypass the legal requirement that the GPO provide printing services. Because this story unfolded over the weekend, we were unable to reach PIA officials about this new development. Andrew Sherman, spokesman for the printing office, said the proposal would increase costs by 50 percent because printers would spend more money chasing government contracts. The Associated Press quoted him as saying that similar plans have been rejected by Congress (in 1987 and 1994) and it would destroy the GPO's program that deposits federal records in 1,300 libraries. Currently, the GPO outsources 84% of its work to private contractors. Daniels’ office expects that all executive branch agencies will comply with the directive by September. Said Daniels, "We have a wealth of experience showing that by opening services up to competition, you get a 20 to 40 percent cost reduction." According to the a memo sent by Daniels, the GPO charges a 7% premium above the cost of private printing. The figure increases to 14% if the lead time is 10 or fewer days. It also noted that the GPO retains all discounts for prompt payment offered by private printers, rather than passing the savings on to the government agency. Even when the GPO performs the work in-house, it charges government agencies a 35% premium if the lead time is 10 days or less. *EDITOR’s NOTE: Again - Because this story unfolded late Friday afternoon, we were unable to contact officials at PIA to determine their view of this action. Calls made to GPO contacts over the weekend had not been returned at press time. We hope to have more information later this week.