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Highlights

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

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Other 1. 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.
Other 2. 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.
Other 3. ACFR should require that electronic dissemination pilot projects be designed to provide useful information on costs, benefits, and the ability to meet user needs.
Closed - Implemented
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.
Other 4. ACFR should ensure that both the GPO and OFR bulletin boards are necessary and not duplicative.
Closed - Not Implemented
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.
Other 5. 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.
Closed - Implemented
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.

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