OMB Steps Up Efforts to Make GPO Optional
11-4-2002

As government printers know, OMB has been threatening to issue regulations making GPO optional for federal agencies since its memorandum back in May of this year. Congress, on the other hand, through the Joint Committee on Printing, strongly opposes any action that would affect GPO's role as the centralized printing procurement agent for the federal government. 

OMB continues to press the issue, and recently took a major step:  it announced that it was not going to go through the GPO to buy the printed copies of the President's Fiscal Year 2004 Budget.  To support its decision, OMB sought and obtained a second opinion letter from the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, dated October 22, 2002, which repeats the 1996 Justice position that Section 501 of Title 44 requiring executive branch agencies to go through GPO for their printing is unconstitutional (see copy attached).  Following receipt of that document, the director of OMB, on October 28, 2002, issued a 5 page "deviation" to justify why OMB did not have to go through GPO, but could have the President's FY 2004 Budget printed by contracting directly with a private sector printing contractor. 

Interestingly, the FAR revisions that OMB is working on to make GPO optional have not yet been advertised, let alone adopted. 

The solicitation issued by OMB is available on their website at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb 

Click the links to see the synopsis and supplemental terms, as of 11-4-2002

I am sure that JCP and Congress will have a response, but as of today, no one knows what it will be.  One thing we can say is that the battle is definitely heating up again. 

Although there are many issues relating to moving printing out of GPO, the one that concerns government printers the most is that the agencies do not openly publicize their procurements, while GPO does publicize every printing procurement.  Under an agency system, it would be all but impossible for individual printers to get access to the same number of job opportunities they currently receive through a bid service that gets them from GPO.  If even a few significant agencies "jump ship" and stop sending their printing through GPO, any bid service will have significantly more work to get that agency's job specs for distribution to printers.

The second issue of major concern to printers is the fact that there is no "system" for print procurement in the federal government outside of GPO.  In other words, there are no current rules, regulations, quality standards, printing guidelines, proofing standards, etc., etc. except those that GPO has adopted over its 130-year history.  OMB's plan is not to adopt the GPO rules and regulations, but simply to let agencies do what they want.  The only silver lining in this cloud is that a number of major agencies have already indicated that even if they were allowed to buy their own printing, they would continue to use GPO because they believe it offers them good value for the fees charged.  In addition, they are pleased that GPO is moving forward (although at a snail's pace) to adopt a type of "best value" award system which will consider performance relating to quality and on-time delivery and other factors important to a specific job, along with price when making an award. 

 We will try to keep you posted as new developments occur. 

 Copyright 2002  Frederic G. Antoun Jr.   May be redistributed only in present form.