Federal Register:

Better Electronic Technology Planning Could Improve Production and Dissemination

GGD-93-5: Published: Nov 10, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1992.

Additional Materials:


J. William Gadsby
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the use of information technology in publishing the Federal Register (FR).

GAO found that: (1) most FR documents are currently processed exclusively on paper until final composition at the Government Printing Office (GPO); (2) GPO offered agencies a discount for submission of fully coded documents on disks, but agency officials thought that the costs associated with developing and maintaining a coding capability were greater than the possible discounts; (3) in September 1991, the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) established a task force to increase the number of FR documents submitted in electronic format; (4) GPO and OFR have collaborated on pilot projects to test certain electronic dissemination formats; (5) if GPO included graphics in its FR database, it could capture information that was not in machine-readable format; (6) closer coordination in the early stages of the planning process and better assessment of potential automation benefits, costs, and needed resources could have made the development of some FR electronic technology projects more efficient and avoided delays; (7) the Administrative Committee of the Federal Register (ACFR) did not provide the continuing oversight needed to direct and support the FR/Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) automation initiatives; and (8) OFR and GPO had no current, formally articulated plan describing FR/CFR production and dissemination systems and technologies they expected to have in operation 5 or more years from now.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Legislation has been enacted requiring electronic dissemination of the Federal Register. This precludes an action on the part of the ACFR.

    Matter: Given the relative lack of action to date, Congress should consider holding oversight hearings to assess progress made by ACFR.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO and NARA both have independent strategic plans that recognize the importance of emerging technology to improve the delivery of information and services. ACFR may, at the appropriate time, develop a specific strategic plan to merge the concepts of the two strategic plans.

    Recommendation: The Chairman and members of ACFR should develop a strategic plan defining future FR/CFR production and dissemination processes and the electronic information technologies that will be needed to support those processes. Specific attention should be paid to identifying and addressing shifts in function that will occur in redesigning the processes by which FR and CFR will be published.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Committee of the Federal Register

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the bulletin boards are not duplicative, to operate both of them it is not necessary when one bulletin board could perform the tasks well. It would be more efficient for OFR to download its information into the GPO system.

    Recommendation: ACFR should ensure that both the GPO and OFR bulletin boards are necessary and not duplicative.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Committee of the Federal Register

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: There are several electronic dissemination pilot projects under way to provide information on the costs, benefits, and the ability to meet user needs. Projects include putting selected EPA FR documents on the GPO bulletin board and using the electronic dissemination of the Congressional Record as a prototype for the Federal Register.

    Recommendation: ACFR should require that electronic dissemination pilot projects be designed to provide useful information on costs, benefits, and the ability to meet user needs.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Committee of the Federal Register

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NARA will maintain daily contact with users through OFR to gauge their interest. OFR will also gauge interest through public briefings, professional association meetings, and an electronic bulletin board. Efforts will also be a part of NARA strategic planning. As far as providing a graphics-enhanced tape, NARA does not believe its dissemination should be limited to magnetic tape.

    Recommendation: The Chairman and members of ACFR should obtain more complete information about federal and public interest for electronic FR and CFR publications, including the need for and cost of providing a graphics-enhanced FR magnetic print tape.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Committee of the Federal Register

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has established new reduced rates for electronic submission of FR documents based on the format used. Agencies can receive reduced rates using uncoded WordPerfect or ASCII, WordPerfect template, or full coded. An OFR/GPO team meets monthly to identify unresolved issues, assign study groups, and review progress. GPO is acquiring a new computer to allow agencies to submit machine-readable data. Agency submission of electronic documents has increased and is estimated at 30 percent. A new computer and high-speed laser link are used to eletronically transmit files from OFR to GPO. Electronic transmission of files from agenices to OFR has not yet occurred. Once electronic signature standards are promulgated that address legal sufficiency, it is expected that agency file transmissions will occur. As GPO develops its new SGML approach to coding electronic documents, closer coordination with OFR is needed to ensure that the codes will handle Federal Register requirements.

    Recommendation: The Chairman and members of ACFR should increase agency submission of FR documents in electronic format by: (1) working with agencies to further develop and expand the electronic submission options available; (2) doing necessary analyses to establish the conditions and circumstances for efficient use of these options; and (3) addressing the technical, procedural, and legal matters that must be resolved in order to establish telecommunications as a method for agencies to transmit their FR documents.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Committee of the Federal Register


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