GPO offers to cut cost of printing budget document
The Government Printing Office has offered to cut the cost of printing the federal budget by 23 percent to stop the Bush administration from outsourcing the job.
Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Amy Call said the GPO has offered to print the president's fiscal 2004 budget proposal for $387,000. The budget will be printed in January and issued in February. Last year, the GPO charged the administration $505,370 to print the fiscal 2003 budget.
Call said OMB would decide whether to give the printing work to the GPO or to a private contractor before Christmas. The number of private bidders and the dollar amounts of their bids for the budget work cannot be made public, Call said.
The GPO's proposal comes as the administration is trying to end a century-old requirement that most federal agencies use the printing office for most printing services. The GPO is part of the legislative branch, and Congress requires that agencies use the GPO. The Bush administration has said that Congress cannot force executive branch agencies to procure services through a legislative branch agency. Administration officials are working on a procurement rule change that will allow agencies to use the printing office or contract out directly with private printing firms.
GPO officials and some members of Congress have fought the administration, arguing that the government as a whole reaps savings by going through a single, centralized source for its printing needs. Ending the printing office requirement could cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars a year in duplicative administrative costs and higher prices, printing office officials have estimated.
In several pieces of legislation this year, Congress reiterated its order that agencies use the printing office. In the stopgap spending measures that have kept the government operating the last few months of the year, Congress even specifically ordered the Office of Management and Budget to use the printing office for the fiscal 2004 budget. But OMB is ignoring the order and may go with a private bidder.
OMB is also moving ahead on a final rule change that will allow all executive branch agencies to take bids for printing work directly from private companies, rather than go through the printing office. OMB officials say that competition will lead to lower prices and higher quality for government printing jobs. Though many federal buyers are satisfied with GPO's service, some federal agency buyers have complained to OMB about the GPO's costs and printing quality.
Andrew Sherman, a spokesman for the printing office, said that in addition to a lower price, "By going with GPO, OMB will have the assurance that all requirements for cataloging, indexing, and distribution of the budget to Congress, federal agencies, the courts, depository libraries, and the public will be fully met, in a process that will be transparent and cost-free to OMB."
GPO distributes many federal documents, including the federal budget, to libraries across the country so that the public can have free access to them. Some librarians worry that eliminating the GPO requirement will reduce the number of documents that make it to libraries each year. OMB officials say they will ensure that agencies send to GPO all documents that are supposed to go to the libraries.