GPO's fiscal 2012 appropriations cut as chief steps down

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Public Printer William Boarman, who had served as the head of the Government Printing Office since April 2010 without formal approval as a recess appointee, will now step down because the Senate failed to approve him before its recess Dec. 17. Recess appointees who are not confirmed by the end of the following Senate term are required to leave their posts.

Boarman's nomination by the Obama administration had been held up for almost 2 years, and was held further in November when two Republican senators blocked the nomination because of separate issues related to the National Labor Relations Board, according to The Hill.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Boarman appeared baffled as to why he would not be approved. "I don't know of anybody that's opposed to me. It's really a strange situation," he said.

"I've got nothing but good comments from everyone," Boarman told the Post. "This was really a total surprise for me. I knew that these things happen, these holds happen, but I clearly thought I'd be confirmed."

While Boarman's approval did not go through Congress, GPO's fiscal 2012 funding did, in a spending bill approved by the House and Senate, known as an omnibus because it consolidates a majority of individual spending bills. The bill secured Senate passage Dec. 17 in a 67-32 vote a day after the House approved it 296-121. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

The bill funds GPO at $126.2 million in fiscal 2012. The budget authority is almost $8.8 million less than GPO's fiscal 2011 funding level of $135 million, and close to $22.3 million less than the White House's fiscal 2012 budget request of $148.5 million. Of the fiscal 2012 appropriation $90.7 million will go toward printing and binding. The House recommended $70 million and the Senate recommended $81.3 million for printing and binding.

$500,000 of GPO's fiscal 2012 funds will go toward a revolving fund for information technology development. "It significantly reduced what we were getting in 2 or 3 recent years," said Andrew Sherman, chief communications officer at GPO. Fortunately, in the last year GPO ramped up efforts to collect unpaid payments due to GPO from federal agencies and as a result collected between $19 million and $14 million, which it brought into the revolving fund, said Sherman.

"The cut in the revolving fund stings a little bit but the sting has been taken out in that we've been successful in collecting outstanding payments," he said.

In July, the House legislative branch appropriations bill, H.R. 2551 (.pdf), highlighted the need to modernize GPO programs. Committee members said a Government Accountability Office report should examine whether the General Services Administration could take over printing duties for the executive branch and the remainder of the GPO could be privatized. Such a plan would involve transfer of the Superintendent of Documents program to the Library of Congress.

A report (.pdf) accompanying the omnibus shows the conferees rejected that request for a report, and instead requested the Congressional Research Service contract out or issue a grant to the National Academy of Public Administration to "conduct a study on updating a review of GPO operations and additional cost saving opportunities beyond what GPO has already instituted, if any, and report its findings to the Committee on Appropriations of the House and Senate no later than one year after enactment of this Act."

The report says conferees noted past reports which show GPO's business model as the most efficient model for government printing and information dissemination. "The conferees direct that GAO cease all work and no funds are provided for any GAO study related to the study requested in House Report 112-148 regarding the future of the Government Printing Office. That work is being conducted by NAPA through CRS," says the report.

UPDATE 12/20/11, 1:40 p.m.: This story has been updated to correct GPO's annual appropriations and make clear that NAPA will conduct the study on GPO operations called for by lawmakers.

For more:
- see the Legislative Branch appropriations bill (.pdf)
- see the report accompanying the Legislative Branch appropriations bill (.pdf)

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