A Treasury Department study due out Nov. 16 is expected to recommend to Secretary Donald T. Regan that the Free World's largest money-making operation, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, be moved to a new site in the Washington area, and that a satellite money-printing plant be set up near the West Coast.
The bureau is currently located at 14th and C streets SW.
Many of the bureau's 2,300 workers, who annually crank out $60 billion worth of currency and 29 billion postage stamps, first learned of the proposal last week in a bulletin from a union representing a sizable number of people there, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, warning that all or part of the bureau may be moved to Texas.
Some union officials speculated privately last week that such a move would be announced in an attempt to help woo Texas voters to the Reagan-Bush ticket. But officials of the bureau say the report, one of many relocation studies that have been made about the printing and engraving plant, will not be completed or released until 10 days after the election.
Any move of the central plant, assuming it is approved, could take five to seven years to accomplish. Because of the complex, expensive machinery involved, even setting up a small satellite in another part of the country could take at least three years once the decision to move was made.
Alternative sites for printing money and stamps are under consideration because Treasury officials are concerned that the workload is outgrowing the plant in Washington and because there is no other facility to take over in case of natural or man-made disaster.
Because postage rates are going up, the bureau expects it will have to increase production to 36 billion stamps in 1985, up from 29 billion this year.
Most of the printing and engraving work would be kept in the Washington area, under the recommendations being considered, but moved to another site. A satellite plant that would employ about 100 workers is being considered for Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico or Nevada.
The biggest customers for newly printed currency on the West Coast are Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cost of shipping and insuring money to the West is high and many bureau officials have long advocated establishing a plant nearer those cities. They note that the new plant could also increase currency production in the event the Washington facility was shut down or damaged.
"If that Air Florida plane which crashed into the 14th Street bridge near the bureau two years ago had turned right instead of left after leaving National Airport, we could have been in real trouble," a top bureau employe said yesterday.
Politics always play a major role when government agencies decide to move or build new facilities, and many powerful members of Congress would be expected to bid for the business for their areas.
But in selecting a site for a satellite plant the bureau is anxious to find a place that is closer to the West Coast -- but relatively safe from the threat of earthquakes, located near good highway and/or rail transportation, and not subject to severe weather conditions like heavy snowstorms.
They also want the site to be outside the fallout pattern that could likely result from a nuclear strike on a nearby military facility and near a major labor source, or in an area attractive enough to lure highly skilled engravers, printers and other craft workers.