Changing GPO’s Name Isn't High on the Congressional Agenda

GPO prints the annual budget. GPO prints the annual budget. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The venerable Government Printing Office, which just won rave reviews in an agency customer satisfaction survey, has been pressing Congress to modernize its name for the digital age, but so far has had little luck.

A bill (S. 1947) introduced in January by Sen. Amy Klochubar, D-Minn., would do nothing more controversial than change the agency’s name to the Government Publishing Office, even preserving the 154-year-old GPO’s acronym. But it has not rocketed up the agenda of an election-year-minded, polarized Congress.

Despite clearing the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in April, the measure has attracted only one co-sponsor (Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.). No companion bill has emerged in the House.

“GPO’s services have evolved over time and are continuing to trend to digital,” Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said in April in thanking the Senate panel for acting. “We need to update our name to accurately reflect our broad range of services.”

The bill would also change the titles of the public printer and deputy public printer to “director” and “deputy director,” respectively, while replacing certain gender-specific terms in current law such as “he” and “his” with gender-neutral ones.

Rules Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said, “Updating the name of the Government Printing Office to the Government Publishing Office is the next logical step in this agency’s long and proud service to our country.” His release noted that GPO had just reached a milestone of 1 billion electronic document retrievals, and that GPO offers free public access to nearly 1 million searchable titles, among them the Warren Commission Report on President Kennedy's assassination.

But Government Executive inquiries to Senate and House sources on the bill’s prospects suggest a consensus that it is “back-burnered.” No one would venture a guess on when action is likely.

The House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over GPO, “will consider the Senate bill, if and when the bill is sent to the House and referred” to that committee, said Erin Sayago, a spokeswoman for panel Chairwoman Candice Miller, R-Mich.

None of this should suggest that GPO is unpopular. On June 5, the agency released results of a survey of 500 users of GPO products, services and programs from other agencies. Among its findings:

  • 91 percent of customers are satisfied with overall service from their primary GPO location;
  • 90 percent of customers are likely to recommend GPO to a colleague;
  • 90 percent of customers say they do not believe they can beat or match GPO pricing.
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