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GPO fears sequestration's ripple effect

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The Government Printing Office may be forced to furlough employees if other agencies respond to sequestration by reducing their use of publishing and printing services, said GPO's Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks.

Speaking to the House Committee on Appropriations Tuesday, Vance-Cooks said GPO is planning to address its $6.7 million cut from sequestration through a hiring freeze, restrictions on travel and training, and other cuts, but notes GPO can't determine all the steps it will need to take because it expects revenue losses as other agencies respond to sequestration.

Vance-Cooks said appropriated funds only account for 16 percent of GPO's budget and the rest comes from earned revenue through printing, publishing and identification document services. She said GPO must wait until other agencies specify their cutbacks to estimate losses beyond appropriated funds.

"If sequestration hits the other agencies they will probably reduce printing, they may even cut it out altogether. If that ripples out into the 84 percent then we may have to furlough," she said.

Vance-Cooks told the committee that the ripple doesn't stop at GPO but continues through to more than 3,000 private sector printing partners that GPO uses. "Approximately 75 percent of the orders that come in to GPO are contracted out to vendors" and, she said, some smaller vendors have as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of their total business coming from GPO.

Vance-Cooks said that if these printers see significant drop-offs in volume they may be forced to lay-off their staff because the printing business typically has very slim margins.

In addition,sequestration will have long-term impacts on GPO's ability to invest in new technology and shift more work to digital services, she said. The agency is looking into expanding e-books, printing on-demand services and has even purchased a 3D printer, but Vance-Cooks said that these efforts will slow or even stop under sequestration.

"It was through the funding from Congress that we were able to figure out how to develop apps, to develop e-books," she said. "If we do not have those funds, everything will stop."

For more:
- watch a recording of the hearing, it starts at the 1:14:00 mark
- visit the hearing's webpage for testimony and statement transcripts

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