OMB Moves to Make Agency Use of GPO Optional

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memo M-02-07, challenging GPO's grip on all Federal printing, was released on May 3, 2002.   A source at OMB says this is not just a wake-up call to GPO, but rather a serious attempt to allow Agencies the option to buy their own printing.

Here is what the OMB memo does:

1. Recommends agencies buy printing based on “the best quality, cost, and time of delivery” (best value, as opposed to GPO’s low-bid-wins system).

2. Recommends agencies obtain printing through GPO ONLY “if GPO can provide the better combination of quality, cost, and time of delivery.” If not “the department or agency should contract with the private sector.”

3. Requests that the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) be amended to reflect the new policy.

Obviously, this could have a major impact on GPO printers AND Federal Agencies AND GPO.

Best value procurement under the FAR will not hurt good GPO vendors--in fact most government printers will welcome a system that makes awards on quality, price and service, instead of the GPO low-price-wins method. BUT procurement under the existing FAR rules does not require public posting of jobs under $100,000 ($50,000 for some agencies). So the question is: how will printers find out about jobs to bid? Whether they hate or like the prospect of direct agency print purchasing, printers must consider whether any new FAR print procurement regulations required by the OMB Memo need to mandate public (internet?) posting of all jobs estimated to be over $XXXX.

Agencies need to determine if they have the staff to buy all their printing, and if not, can they get funding to increase staff.

GPO needs to determine if it will move to "best value" awards as required by the OMB Memo (as opposed to its traditional low-bid-wins method) AND whether it should change or fight. What a mess for the new Public Printer (who has not been formally nominated yet).  

See GPO's Response to OMB Memo

The memo shows OMB is ready to do something.  It is not a done deal, because the FAR must be revised--and there is still the problem of Section 501 of Title 44, US Code requiring print and duplicating to be purchased through GPO.   OMB cannot repeal that law (and Congress has declined to do so for years), so OMB is relying on a 1996 Justice Dept memo stating that Section 501 is unconstitutional.

Why didn't the Agencies use the same Justice memo to go around Section 501 for the past 6 years?? Fear of offending Congress and their appropriation committees. The fear is still there, and several Agency General Counsel Offices have said they will not advise their Agency to act on the OMB Memo alone--but will probably advise compliance with new FAR regs, if they come out.

The OMB Memo suprised many, but OMB and the Administration gave us a "heads-up" in January.  See Will "Freedom to Manage" Affect GPO? (link to another article on this site).