Private Sector Printers Should Get Larger Share of Federal Agency Print Spend

by: Fred Antoun

For several decades, GPO has been working hard to obtain as much of the federal agency print spend as possible.  This effort has intensified under the current Public Printer, Bruce James.

GPO has a statutory mandate in Title 44 of the U.S. Code which requires all federal agencies (with limited exceptions) to go through the GPO for their printing needs.  One notable exception is that agencies are allowed to have approved in-house printing facilities.  Unfortunately, over the years, more (and larger) in-house printing facilities were approved than should have been, and numerous others sprung up without approval.

The result today is that even though there is a law requiring agencies to go through the GPO to buy their printing, GPO is not capturing the most of agency print spending.

This problem is critically important to the printing industry, as GPO outsources to the printing industry about 85% of the federal agency work that comes to it.  On the other hand, of the printing volume that agencies keep, the vast majority is produced in in-house plants, many of which provide a poor price/quality/service offering.  Listed below are the GPO’s Top 10 Agency Printing Customers, and their total print spend, as well as the value of work sent to the GPO for outsourcing to the private sector.

 GPO's Top 10 Customer Agencies Receiving Products and Services from the Private Sector in FY 2005

Ranking

Agency Customer

Value of Jobs sent through GPO

Number of Orders

Agency Print Budget

1

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD)

$121.5 million

41,502

$377 million

2

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

$66.3 million

9,091

 $78 million

3

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

$45.0 million

6,448

$53 million

4

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

$37.1 million

2,500

$43 million

5

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

$18.5 million

6,499

$31 million

6

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

$16.5 million

7,263

$17 million

7

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

$14.1 million

5,439

$31 million

8

DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

$13.8 million

7,194

$16 million

9

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

$12.2 million

7,036

$10 million

1

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

$11.8 million

6,335

$27 million

 It is obvious that there is a significant amount of printing being done in-house, which should be outsourced.  The “should be outsourced” determination is based on two factors:  1) past studies of government in-house printing operations have shown conclusively that, for most needs, the same or better product can be obtained from the private sector at a significantly lower cost; and 2) the government has a strong policy (both from Congress and the White House) that “non-inherently governmental services” such as printing should be outsourced to the private sector.

 No one in the printing industry disputes the need of any business or federal agency to have in-house copying operations to conveniently and efficiently support the business.  However, with printing companies within a stone’s throw of most agency operations, there is simply no logical or financial justification for maintaining in-house printing capability for books and pamphlets, or even in-house capability for medium and longer copying runs.

 Printers are typically horrified when they learn that tax dollars are spent to acquire sophisticated digital printing equipment that may only have a 20% to 30% utilization rate.  With such low usage, the taxpayers will never obtain value for their investment, and each copy produced on the equipment has a significantly higher cost than a copy made by the private sector on the same machine, but with a much higher utilization rate.

 PIA/GATF has been working on government in-house outsourcing projects at both the state and federal level.  You can help.  Write a short note to your state and federal elected representatives, letting them know that your company strongly favors outsourcing of in-house printing, in order to save the taxpayers money, and to maintain the vitality of one of America’s largest industries – printing.  You can obtain the email addresses and post office addresses of your elected representatives by going to the Government Affairs section at www.gain.org

Copyright © 2005  Frederic G. Antoun, Jr.

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