The Washington Post

Does the 153-year-old Government Printing Office need a digital-era name?

The Senate may vote soon on a bipartisan bill that would give the 153-year-old Government Printing Office a new name to better reflect its digital-age work.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), would swap the word “printing” for “publishing” to make the agency the Government Publishing Office. It also would change the top two GPO officials’ titles from “public printer” and “deputy public printer” to “director” and “deputy director.”

Supporters of the measure say the current GPO name ignores the agency’s past and present efforts to reinvent itself for modern times with digital offerings such as e-books, apps and the Federal Digital System, which allows the public to search for, browse and download official publications from all branches of the government.

A member of the GPO apprentice class of 1940 uses a Monotype typesetters. (Courtesy of GPO).

“The name Government Publishing Office better reflects the services that GPO currently provides and will provide in the future,” said Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

MORE: Government Printing Office has new strategies to keep presses rolling

The committee moved the bill to the full Senate on April 10, two days after the GPO announced it had reached a new milestone: One billion documents viewed or downloaded from the Federal Digital System.

The government provides the GPO with relatively little help in funding its operations, with congressional appropriations accounting for about 16 percent of its budget. As such, the agency largely relies on sales of printed and digital products to make ends meet.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks has focused on changing the way people think about the GPO and its offerings since taking office in August 2013.

“GPO’s services have evolved over time and are continuing to trend digital,” Vance-Cooks said in a statement. “The advancement of the legislation validates GPO’s efforts to provide Congress, federal agencies and the public with government in formation in the forms and formats they want and need in this digital age.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.



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Josh Hicks · April 18, 2014

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