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Changes Improve Access to Public Information

November 23, 2002

In May, the Bush administration announced that it was moving to end the Government Printing Office's 141-year monopoly on federal printing by allowing private firms to compete for $500 million worth of federal printing and copying contracts. A number of myths have spread about the possible implications of ending the GPO's monopoly.

"Chokehold on Knowledge" (editorial, Nov. 8) described the effort to introduce competition as "a threat to democracy," suggesting that individual agencies could "sanitize" their electronic databases. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only issue here is who will perform the actual printing operations -- a government monopoly or the printer that offers the best combination of quality, cost and time of delivery. Nothing in the administration's effort to introduce competition into government printing would affect the content of government publications.

The Times' assertion that the introduction of competition would "spell the end of the current system" that requires agencies to send their documents to "neutral librarians" is also patently false. In fact, the Bush administration's policy expressly requires that agencies provide government publications to the superintendent of documents at the GPO for distribution to the depository libraries.

The administration's approach will expand and improve the public's access to government information. The GPO itself admits that under today's monopoly, almost 50% of government publications don't make it to libraries and institutions. Our plan strengthens the law and requires federal agencies to distribute publications immediately. It also encourages agencies to do so electronically, thus streamlining delivery to libraries and the public. Opening federal printing to competition could save taxpayers $50 million to $70 million annually. At the same time, this administration will ensure that the cherished principle of the public's right to know is strengthened wherever possible.

Mitchell E. Daniels Jr.

Director, Office of

Management and Budget


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