Does the Government Printing Office need a name change?


Binder Eric Bohn lines up the leather backing to President Obama's first set of presidential papers in the Government Printing Office in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Is it time to change the name of the Government Printing Office to better reflect the times? A key senator and the agency’s director suggested as much last week during a review of the agency’s budget requests.

“Perhaps we ought to consider changing your name to something else. It’s not simply about printing,” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing last week.

Public Printer William J. Boarman didn’t seem opposed to the idea, noting that 70 percent of the agency’s budget is spent on IT costs, including publishing the Congressional Record online every evening.

The other 30 percent is spent on direct printing costs, Boarman said. Some agency personnel still bind government books by hand, while others run the presses that produce copies of the Congressional Record, government instruction manuals, copies of legislation and invitations to formal government events.

“I’ve met with several members of Congress who’ve raised the very issue you did,” Boarman told Nelson. But he cautioned later that “GPO is the only agency that provides the information that can go paperless.” (In other words, “please don’t cut our budget.”)

Despite the question, a spokesman said Nelson isn’t planning to introduce legislation mandating a name change.

Gary Somerset, a GPO spokesman, said the agency “has evolved over many years from just a printing agency and into a digital platform for the entire federal government.” GPO believes “it’s appropriate that what we actually do is reflected in our name, so that our identity and value to Congress, federal agencies, and the public is not obscured,” he said. “We will be discussing options for changing the agency’s name with our oversight committees in Congress.”

Do you agree or disagree with a potential name change? If so, what new name would you give GPO? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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