Time for GPO to go?

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  David B. Grinberg 7 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #171648

    David B. Grinberg

    In our modern era of E-Government and advanced digital/mobile technology, is it time for the age-old Government Printing Office (GPO) to finally stop the presses?

    Today’s Washington Post addresses the question in an article, “Government Printing Office has new strategies to keep presses rolling“.

    According to the Post:

    * “GPO is still a place that reveres the past, from the marble-and-brass lobby of its Romanesque Revival building to its bookstore, which still stocks hard copies of such titles as International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.”

    * “In an era when 97 percent of federal documents are now created electronically, people ask why the printing office still exists?”

    * “Evidence of its obsolescence is mounting. The Federal Register and Congressional Record, GPO’s signature publications, have plummeted to 2,500 copies from a 30,000-copy run two decades ago.”

    * In that time conventional government printing has shrunk by half. At 1,900 employees, one of the last blue-collar strongholds in a white-collar bureaucracy is at its lowest point.”

    The aforementioned points raise the following questions:

    1) Has the GPO outlived its usefulness in a time of severe budget austerity government-wide?

    2) If GPO is still needed, how should it be revamped and rebranded to reflect the changing times with a new 21st century mission?

    * GPO Building in Washington, D.C.

  • #171662

    David B. Grinberg

    Federal News Radio reports, “GPO focuses on digital platform in new strategy“:

    “So many people have asked why you need a Government Printing Office because the information is available on the web. Most people don’t realize we’re the ones who put it on the web,” said Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

    “With that shift, GPO is focused on official, digital and secure information online. The agency uses public key encryption to certify documents are official. Users can see an eagle watermark as a digital signature that the document has been authenticated, Vance-Cooks said.”

    “GPO will also continue to print secure identification cards and passports. Vance- Cooks said GPO is the only government-to-government provider to meet HSPD-12 standards. The workforce will also have to change to meet future digital needs. GPO will continue to hire people but for specific technological skills, Vance-Cooks said.”

    SO, IS IT TIME FOR GPO TO GO??? What say you GovLoopers???

  • #171660

    David B. Grinberg

    Government Computer News reports, “GPO pilot puts historical Treasury records online“:

    “The Government Printing Office is expanding its online offerings with a pilot program to make historical Treasury Department documents available in a digital format for the first time. GPO is making a half-century of foreign currency exchange rates available on its Federal Digital System. FDsys will provide a permanent home for the documents with digital archiving and public access. The site already hosts a wealth of government information generated since the printing office established its GPO Access Web site in the 1990s, and most material produced by agencies now is available online, either through FDsys or on agency websites, said GPO Chief Technology Officer Ric Davis.”

  • #171658

    David B. Grinberg

  • #171656

    David – I was talking with someone from GPO last year and she was intent on helping the GPO digitize everything, to become the epicenter for digital publishing and dissemination of government information.

    The key question: can they move fast enough in that direction to remain relevant?

  • #171654

    David B. Grinberg

    Thanks for your reply, Andy. Yes, that appears to be the key question. I suppose the jury is still out. Time, budget resources, and a potential new Administration, will eventually lead to an answer.

    Some may think it’s possible to revamp and rebrand the current GPO, while others may argue that dismantling the old system and building a new one from the ground up is the best course of action. Either way, perhaps at least a symbolic change in name would be a good start. How about the “GDO” — Government Digitalization Office?

    The bottom line reality is Washington remains the same: old and entrenched government bureaucracies usually tend to die a slow death for any number of reasons — including special interests, Congressional turf battles (ie. bringing home the bacon), shifting public opinions, and Presidential priorities, to name a few factors.

    Although major change in government may sound good on paper, it is not always easy to achieve in practice. Any significant change usually takes a great deal of time and effort. It is analogous to pulling a tree, or tooth, out by the roots — in short, a painstaking process. Stay tuned.

  • #171652

    William Lim

    Not sure if it has been discussed, but one of the things I love about federal documents is that the federal government does not assert copyrights over them. If GPO is privatized, you can bet Mitt Romney’s $10,000 that Lexis Nexis, West, or whatever publishing company is used will not be so generous. We will see taxpayer-paid content hidden behind paywalls, absent federal law mandating free and open access.

  • #171650

    David B. Grinberg

    Thanks for your comments, William, you raise and excellent point about privatization.

    Although I haven’t heard anyone specifically advocate for privatizing GPO, I agree that we need to be extra vigilant about ensuring that federal publications — and all government information generally — are open and accessible for everyone. This includes print, digital and other formats. For example, while most citizens may prefer digital and mobile access to documents, people who are blind may need printed publications in braille. Other GPO stakeholder groups may have similar needs.

    It’s good to know — based on the Washington Post article and Andy’s comments above — that GPO is trying to reposition and rebrand itself to adapt to new and evolving technologies. Digital and other web-based or mobile formats are the new normal, and GPO needs to quickly adapt to changing times.

    Change is never easy in an age-old bureaucratic structure, but change is necessary to enhance customer service. Embracing 21st century technologies and approaches to citizen engagement will only make the government more transparent, efficient, and better meet the needs of those it serves.

    My point is that GPO cannot remain in the Stone Age while its customers move forward in the Information Age.

    The good news is that GPO’s leaders appear to be very aware of the situation. GPO is moving in the right direction to strategically redefine the agency’s mission and work, as is necessary.

    The question is, can GPO move fast enough to keep up with private sector advancements and the needs of its customer/stakeholder base. Hopefully, the answer is YES.

    Thanks again, William, for sharing your valuable feedback on this important and timely topic.


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