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Government Publishing Office: Production of Secure Credentials for the Department of State and U.S. Customs and Border Protection

GAO-15-326R Published: Mar 10, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2015.
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What GAO Found

The Department of State (State) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) considered a variety of cost and non-cost factors in selecting the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to obtain their secure credentials. Specifically, State and CBP officials concluded after consideration of factors such as interagency coordination and collaboration and pricing, among others, that GPO was best able to meet their production needs. State officials also noted other factors led them to choose GPO such as GPO’s experience producing high-performing secure credential cards, GPO’s back-up production facilities, and the relationship State already had with GPO for the production of passport books. For CBP officials, other factors that contributed to their choosing GPO included GPO’s experience producing passport books for State and its secure supply chain. Pursuant to Title 44, federal agencies obtain products and services, such as secure credential production, from GPO by submitting a Standard Form One (SF-1)—that is, a Printing and Binding Requisition to the Public Printer of the United States (i.e., a requisition). State and CBP also signed memorandums of understanding with GPO to establish the production requirements for the secure credentials. Production of the credentials is initiated through the submission of a requisition by State and CBP to GPO when needed.

GPO produces secure credentials by integrating and assembling materials and components procured from the private sector and uses a variety of processes, both internal and external, to test and ensure the quality of its secure credentials. According to GPO officials, GPO procures from private sector entities all of the raw materials and components used to construct secure credentials, such as polymers, inks, and radio frequency identification chips. After GPO procures the various components from the private sector, its production of the credentials is a multi-step process involving secure printing, assembly, validation, personalization or serialization, and delivery of the credentials. To ensure the quality of the secure credentials, GPO carries out a variety of quality control checks and processes, voluntarily complies with international standards for manufacturing quality, and conducts testing of prototype cards. Externally, GPO also works with State and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on an ongoing basis to monitor the performance of issued credentials, contracts with private sector laboratories to test prototype cards, and has sought feedback from a DHS lab on the extent to which the credentials are resistant to counterfeiting.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO was asked to review the activities and processes related to GPO’s production of secure credentials. In addition, Senate Report 113-196, which accompanies the fiscal year 2015 legislative branch appropriations bill, mandated GAO to review GPO’s secure credentialing production activities.

This report addresses the following questions: (1) What factors did State and CBP consider in selecting to obtain their secure credentials from GPO? (2) How does GPO produce and ensure the quality of its secure credentials?

GAO reviewed GPO, State, and CBP documents and policies related to GPO’s production of secure credentials. GAO also interviewed officials with GPO, State, and CBP.


GAO makes no recommendations in this report.

Full Report

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Competitive procurementFederal agenciesGovernment informationIdentification cardsInteragency relationsPassportsPrivate sectorPublic officialsPublishingQuality controlRadio frequencyRadio frequency identification technologyRaw materialsSmart cardsStandardsSupply chain management