Government Printing:

Legal and Regulatory Framework Is Outdated for New Technological Environment

NSIAD-94-157: Published: Apr 15, 1994. Publicly Released: Apr 15, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed government printing operations, focusing on: (1) current technological advances in the publishing industry; (2) the Government Printing Office's (GPO) and the Defense Printing Service's (DPS) respective costs, prices, services, and operations; and (3) whether DPS is complying with federal regulations and congressional guidance on government printing operations.

GAO found that: (1) the laws and regulations used to manage government publishing operations are outdated; (2) the two largest government printing entities are operating with excess capacity and experiencing operating losses and diminishing workloads; (3) these entities are challenged with managing current operations under existing laws while planning future operations that respond to rapid technological change; (4) certain DPS practices are inconsistent with applicable laws and congressional guidance; and (5) the publishing entities' future operational plans are largely dependent on the outcome of proposals to revise existing legislation.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the FY 1995 Legislative Appropriation Act, Congress revised existing law by expanding the type of printing work which federal agencies must send to the Government Printing Office (GPO) for production. While this action would direct more work to GPO, it is not clear that this is in the best interest of the federal government as a whole. It is expected that Congress will continue to deliberate how best to manage federal government printing in 1995 as the National Performance Review (NPR) recommendations are considered. NPR proposals are based on the concept of cost-effective management of printing operations.

    Matter: As Congress continues to review the various legislative proposals, it may wish to consider alternative frameworks built on sound business practices and changing publishing technologies. Such a framework should rely heavily on providing for the lowest possible cost for publishing jobs, while at the same time considering quality and timeliness.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) issued policy guidance to stop the unauthorized procurement of commercial printing. As a result, unauthorized practices GAO identified during its review have been terminated and printing work is now being routed to GPO in accordance with the law. However, DOD has not taken action to terminate the production of printing for non-DOD organizations. Although this practice violates Section 207 of Public Law 102-392, DOD believes that its current practices are effective and efficient and are saving money for its customers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Director, DPS, to establish controls to prevent the unauthorized procurement of commercial printing and the production of printing for non-Department of Defense organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken action which is responsive to the recommendation. In May 1994, the Defense Printing Service issued policy guidance which clarifies printing reporting requirements and establishes controls for reports required by the Joint Committee on Printing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require the Director, DPS, to establish controls to verify the accuracy of Joint Committee on Printing-required reports for work exceeding the production limits for specified equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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