Better Than Ever
by Bob Neubauer
Even though it's the largest in-plant in the country and produces scores of important government documents, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), in Washington, D.C., doesn't usually get a lot of national attention.
That all changed in September of 1998 when the Starr Report was unleashed on the world. GPO was given the arduous task of disseminating that report to an eager public. The initial report arrived on disk, but supplemental materials consisted of boxes of documents, which had to be shot as camera-ready copy. The resulting products were put on the Internet, on CD-ROMs and on paper—all under the watchful eyes of armed police officers.
"We took the extra step—just to assure Congress that we were treating this with the utmost security—of posting police officers throughout the plant at key production points," explains Andrew M. Sherman, director of the Office of Congressional, Legislative and Public Affairs. Had there been no guards, though, Sherman is confident that GPO employees would have maintained their usual extreme sensitivity to security issues.
"We have never had a record of leaks," Sherman maintains. The guards, though, seemed to have their hands full just keeping the mob of reporters at bay, he adds. Despite the distractions, GPO employees kept their minds on their work, Sherman says—though he admits, "there was a great deal of anxiety on everybody's part."
This situation was far from normal at GPO's Washington headquarters, where the daily production of the Federal Register and the Congressional Record are usually the top jobs. Taking up three buildings and almost 35 acres of floor space, GPO is larger than most commercial printers. Under the direction of Public Printer Michael DiMario, a presidential appointee, GPO generates $800 million a year, $100 million of which involves document dissemination.
Created in 1860, GPO handles congressional and executive branch printing and is in charge of distributing federal documents to the public. As large as GPO's printing operation is, though, it procures about 75 percent of its work from the private sector, and produces only the complex, time- and security-critical work.