In Public Printer William Boarman’s Facebook response this week to an article about increasing the flow of work from federal agencies to private sector printers, he hit the nail on the head. Mr. Boarman assured the thousands of private sector printers who depend on GPO that printing will continue to be procured under his guardianship.
Printing jobs valued at more than $358 million were awarded this past year by GPO on behalf of the Executive Office of the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, executive departments and independent federal agencies. Mr. Boarman agrees that work valued at many times that amount could and should be channeled through GPO to an industry that has historically produced 75% plus of GPO’s printing (with the remaining portion produced by GPO’s own printing shop). The difficulty is that federal agencies have pulled printing in house rather than sending it to GPO under the requirements of Title 44 of the U.S. Code. That Code states that all federal agencies are to use the GPO to obtain their printing.
As Mr. Boarman stated, there is a lot of room for opportunity if federal agencies adhered to Title 44: "Data recently published by the Office of Management and Budget as part of the FY 2012 budget shows about $1.4 billion in direct obligations for printing and reproduction for the Federal Government for fiscal year 2010. Excluding GPO’s component of $104 million for congressional work and printing for our Superintendent of Documents, this leaves nearly $1.3 billion in direct printing obligations for the rest of the Government. GPO’s procurement revenue last year was about $500 million, or about 40% of these direct obligations, leaving a balance of about $800 million that did not come through GPO. Our sense is that it most likely represents work produced in-house by Federal agencies. That’s a significant volume of printing which, if opened up to GPO’s procurement program where costs could be reduced by as much as 50% compared with agency plants, represents a potential annual savings of up to $400 million for the taxpayers. More private sector jobs will be needed to handle that additional volume of work flowing through the procurement program, which will help our Nation’s economic recovery."
Yet the numbers reported by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are necessarily incorrect. There exists a huge body of printing spread across the entire federal government that goes unreported as a result of the way printing is booked. Often printing is booked as a project cost, or a communication expense, or part of a larger training project, or as copying expense, or simply as paper purchased (while labor, equipment and other printing costs are booked under separate spend categories), or in any number of other ways to conceal the in house printing shop activities. There are also a large number of unauthorized agency printing plants operating that have grown significantly over the years outside the oversight of the Congressional Joint Committee on Printing that may or may not have given a specific waiver for the operation of the agency printing plant in the first place. Further complicating OMB’s reporting is the fact that many of the waivers are simply lost and not reportable.
Some industry experts believe that this body of fugitive printing exceeds $10 billion. In an industry that has taken hit after hit and is now on artificial respiration, having dropped from perhaps $150 billion a few years ago and now hovering around $90 billion, the addition of another $10 billion through GPO would be just what the doctor ordered. Congress likes to talk about what it wants to do for taxpayers, well here is one great opportunity to do the right thing by partnering with Mr. Boarman and putting this printing work into the private sector where it belongs.
So why doesn’t the Joint Committee on Printing jump to do what Mr. Boarman is asking – eliminate waivers and act to shutter agency plants, thus sending federal government printing to GPO in accordance with the law – Title 44 of the U.S. Code? After all the government wins, the federal agencies win, GPO wins, the printing industry wins, and – most importantly – the taxpayers win. The answer is in another question. When was the last time you got angry enough to actually call your Congressman and U.S. Senators and demand that the right thing be done for your industry? Until that happens, you and others within the printing industry will get what you have now.
Mr. Boarman may be the first Public Printer in 30 years to truly understand the dilemma, the dynamics and the politics. It is easy to ignore the problem, as so many Public Printers have done in the past, and to get kudos for improving production in GPO’s own printing shop. But Mr. Boarman seems willing to tackle the real issue. He would seem to be the right man in the right job at the right time. His influence and vision may result in finally reinventing GPO so its federal agency customers are better served, excessive printing costs are trimmed, GPO union ranks and the printing industry are both satisfied, and taxpayers get what they deserve.
Admittedly, many were and some are still skeptical of an appointee with union ties as strong as Mr. Boarman’s. Yet, it is his experience, abilities to project, negotiate, and understand that may in the end prove to be pivotal as he squares off to meet the challenge of restoring GPO’s rightful place as a respected partner with the printing industry.
This is not about unions. They know how to take care of themselves. This is about having a vision for a better tomorrow. As Mr. Boarman said in his Facebook posting, the majority of the firms that the GPO deals with are small businesses, many with 20 employees or fewer. This is the true face of the printing industry and of America.
Mr. Boarman’s strong leadership is appreciated by those who care about GPO and its impact on the printing industry. Now, let’s see what Mr. Boarman, in concert with the printing industry, can actually accomplish.
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