CALL Public Affairs Committee
OMB IGNORES CONGRESS
By Walter Baumann, November 15, 2002
At the end of October the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) announced
that the administration was going ahead with its plan to have a non-GPO
(Government Printing Office) printer for the 2004 budget even after
Congress has specifically ordered OMB to use GPO to print the budget.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/print_far_dev.pdf)) This was the one of
the latest chapters in a contest between Congress and the last two presidential
administrations over the requirement that most executive agencies have to use
the GPO for their printing ( 44 U.S.C. 501,
OMB claims that two Department of Justice legal opinions dealing with the
constitutionality of this requirement are the basis for its position.
(http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/print_hj_res120_op.pdf , Oct.22,2002, and
http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/printer.fin.htm, May 31,1996 ). They assume that a
change in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR ) is all that is needed to
carry out their position. However, several members of Congress contend that
the requirement to go through GPO is set in law, so changing the requirement
should then necessitate a court challenge or a vote in Congress.
OMB’s proposed regulatory changes do not prevent executive agencies
from using the services of GPO. But it rejects the mandatory use as embodied
In Title 44 and FAR 8.8 (Acquisition of Printing and Related Supplies, see
http://farsite.hill.af.mil/vffara.htm , click on numeral “8” link ) and it would create
new procedures for agencies to obtain printing from commercial printers and GPO.
Agencies will be required to provide notice for purchases over $2500 on the
government site, “FedBizOpps”, which the proposal describes as”…arguably the
most robust one-stop gateway of its kind in the world …“. Additionally, notice for
printing contracts would be posted to the General Services Administration Electronic
quote system, “e-Buy”, ( www.gsaAdvantage.gov )
It seems that part of the motivation for moving agency printing away from GPO,
are the aims in the administration’s “”Freedom To Manage” Initiative (Freedom to
Manage Act of 2001, S.1613 ), the purpose of which is “To provide
for expedited congressional consideration of `Freedom to Manage' legislative proposals
transmitted by the President to Congress to eliminate or reduce barriers to efficient
government operations that are posed by laws that apply to one or more agencies,
including government-wide laws”. However, it appears that when it comes to GPO,
the executive is bypassing the legislative level.
Regardless of GPO’s generally good record and its willingness to make changes
where needed, the Administration seems intent on challenging Congress and the
historical role of the GPO. Surprisingly, the section of the proposal dealing with
“Information Distribution” and the role of the FDLP has several recommendations
that are rather positive from the viewpoint of depository libraries, unlike the OMB
memorandum of May 3,2002 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/m02-07.pdf )
which only mentioned the FDLP in a footnote. The regulatory proposal has an entire
two and a half pages addressing some of the important issues that had been raised regarding the potential negative impact of the OMB’s original proposal.
It recognizes the importance of federal depository libraries in ensuring “…that the
public has equal, efficient, permanent, and ready access to government publications.”
The proposal also will deal with the problem of “fugitive documents” by “…specifying
mandatory steps for meeting the requirement that Executive Branch agencies provide
publications to the Superintendent of Documents for distribution to the depository
libraries”. These would preferably be conveyed in electronic format. But there is a
provision for GPO to pay for and receive hard copy publications as part of an agency’s
printing contract. To foster compliance with the above regulations, agencies would be
required to report to OMB on their obligation to make information available to the
public, including the FDLP. It is rather amazing for OMB critics to find these provisions
in their proposal. It appears that their staff was listening and judged these issues to be
important enough to explicitly address.
The proposal would provide a little over a year during which agencies can still use
the services of GPO “without conducting a competition”. After January 1, 2004,
the agencies would be required to follow the procedures outlined in the revised
For official comments (From Federal Register):
DATES: Interested parties should submit comments to the FAR Secretariat
at the address shown below on or before December 13, 2002.
ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to--General Services Administration,
FAR Secretariat (MVA), 1800 F Street, NW., Room 4035, ATTN: Laurie
Duarte, Washington, DC 20405.
Submit electronic comments via the Internet email@example.com.
Please submit comments only and cite FAR case 2002-011 in all
correspondence related to this case.