Monday, August 8, 2011

Preserve (and expand the role of) the GPO? Or, do away with the GPO?

Proponents of "smaller" government would, I think, suggest that the GPO be done away with. As to the GPO and its mission, I have mixed emotions about this. But, I think that's simply because I've only been directly exposed to a few "reprographics" RFP's and ITB's from the GPO, and, in my opinion (and this is based on the "reprographics" RFP's and ITB's I saw from the GPO), the GPO's print-purchasing experts may be expert at buying "printing" services, but they are not experts at buying "reprographics" services. So, perhaps my view is tainted?


Found in the “Federal Times” (A Gannett Company)

The case for preserving GPO

By Richard Gilbert | Last Updated:August 7, 2011

Certain members of Congress seem to think that the demise of the Government Printing Office would be a good thing for the government. They are wrong, and here is why: GPO is an invaluable asset to the government.

I have read that some people believe that too many copies of the Congressional Record are printed, and that it is a waste of resources. OK, don't print so many copies. That's easily remedied. But keep in mind that printing the Record is just a small part of what GPO does.

Do you really want to save millions of dollars a year, and at the same time support thousands of small businesses?

Then make it mandatory that all government printing go through GPO. If all print jobs went through one agency — the one agency that is composed of printing specialists — the government would realize significant savings.

One plan is to have the General Services Administration handle government printing. GSA has its core competencies, and they do not include buying print. GSA does not have printing specialists, and that cannot be stressed strongly enough. GSA orders manufactured goods from schedules of products already produced. That is not what printing is about.

As a printing specialist at one of GPO's regional offices, I am essentially a print buyer. So what does that entail?

Any agency can come to GPO with a print job. Each of these thousands of jobs is assigned to a printing specialist. Most of the customers we deal with have a limited understanding of what it takes to get something printed. That is where my 30 years of printing industry experience comes into play.

I am that customer's personal printing consultant. I evaluate that job to determine what is going to be the most cost-efficient method to get it produced. I make determinations on paper, binding, distribution, what type of press is needed, who will be invited to submit bids, and so on. With that information, I create a set of detailed specifications that allows all vendors to bid on the same product.

Printing is unlike any other product purchased on a daily basis by the government. Every job is a custom job, and printing specialists create specifications for hundreds of these custom jobs every week.

The majority of jobs I handle require offset printing, and that cannot be accomplished at a document copy center. This is not a cookie-cutter operation, such as FedEx Kinko's. There is a myriad of technical details to be aware of when writing the specifications. And I must always ensure that I am complying with federal laws and regulations.

As one of the best stewards of taxpayer money, our responsibility does not end with the award. GPO handles any problems that may arise: We grant delivery extensions where applicable, help with file problems, write contract modifications, issue cure notices and "show cause" letters, and terminate contracts. We are the buffer between the agency and the contractor. That allows the agency to focus on its own job, and we can deal with its printing jobs.

Plus, we support small businesses across the country. I would wager that 90 percent or more of the thousands of printing companies that we deal with are small businesses, and that a large portion of their revenue comes from doing business with GPO. That contributes to job growth.

So instead of doing away with GPO, we should do away with allowing agencies to go out on their own to buy print. Funnel those print requests through a central location manned by printing experts who eat, drink and breathe printing. That is GPO, and that is why we are an asset to the government.

Richard Gilbert is a printing specialist at the Government Printing Office's Hampton Regional Printing Procurement Office. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the GPO.

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