Government Printing Office Wants a New Name, Same Initials
152-year-old agency stresses digital publishing as well as printing.
Davita Vance-Cooks, who will be sworn in as the next public printer on Aug. 21, has made no secret of her goals for maintaining the relevance of the Government Printing Office by embracing the digital revolution.
The modern incarnation of the 152-year-old agency, as it works to phase out many paper publications and serve public demand for the downloadable, may also call for a name change.
Vance-Cooks, who won Senate confirmation on Aug. 2 as the 27th public printer, broached the idea of a name change with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., at the June 12 nomination hearing before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.
“It’s hard for you to say on social media to use the Government Printing Office when you are giving them digital access,” Klobuchar said.
“The name is a great name full of history and steeped in tradition, but it is limiting,” Vance-Cooks replied. “It makes people think the only thing we do is printing. But we actually publish digital information. So we are a digital publisher. We have eCommerce through eBooks, we create mobile apps.”
If the name gets changed to Government Publishing Office, “people will stop saying, ‘Well, why do you have to exist when you are the printing office?’ ” Klobuchar said, adding that keeping the same acronym would make things easier in Washington while allowing Vance-Cooks to “still be the CEO of the GPO.” Replied Vance-Cooks, “And it doesn’t bother our letterhead too much.”
Both the senator and the acting public printer said they plan to work on the change, though no bill has been introduced.
The last such “edit” of an agency name was the 2004 switch from the eight-decade-old General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office, an update that also preserved the long-standing initials.
It required a law, the 2004 GAO Human Capital Reform Act, which also took the congressional watchdog agency out of the federal pay system.
Then-Comptroller General David Walker wrote in a 2004 op-ed in Roll Call newspaper: “Some might wonder why GAO felt a need to tinker with an institutional identity so strongly associated with government economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. But our old name, as familiar and reassuring as it was, had not kept pace with GAO’s evolving role in government. The truth is that ‘accounting’ has never been our chief mission. A name change is a small step, but it does speak to a larger issue: the need to transform what the federal government does and how it does business to ensure its relevance for the 21st century.”
Chuck Young, GAO’s current managing director of public affairs, told Government Executive,“While some might still mistakenly refer to us by our old name, we’ve been pleased with our name change because it has helped spread the word about how our responsibilities have expanded and that we do much more today beyond accounting.”