Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Robert W. Houk, who served as Public Printer of the United States at the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) from March 1990 to February 1993, died Sunday, December 4, at his home in Shelby, OH. He was 84. Houk served as the Nation’s 22nd Public Printer after being appointed by President George H.W. Bush. During his three years as the head of GPO, Houk issued a strategic plan for the agency that embraced the use of electronic information technologies while improving the provision of conventional printing and distribution services. Houk also testified before Congress in support of early legislation to provide GPO with electronic dissemination authority.
Houk was a native of Michigan and graduate of Michigan State University. He began his career in the printing industry at the Ford Motor Company in 1954, where he helped modernize printed business forms management and procurement. He also cofounded UFORMA, Inc., in 1965 and held executive positions at the company until 1988. Houk served as Chairman of the Board of Printing Industries of America (PIA). He was inducted into the Printing Hall of Fame at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1988. Houk served in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1947 and from 1952 to 1954.
“On behalf of the GPO, I extend our sincere condolences to the family of Public Printer Houk,” said Public Printer Bill Boarman. “Public Printer Houk helped guide GPO into the future while ensuring GPO's support for Congress, Federal agencies, and the public we serve."
With 2,200 employees, GPO is the Federal Government's primary resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government in both digital and tangible formats. GPO is responsible for the production and distribution of information products and services for all three branches of the Federal Government, including U.S. passports for the Department of State as well as the official publications of Congress, the White House, and other Federal agencies. In addition to publication sales, GPO provides for permanent public access to Federal Government information at no charge through GPO’s Federal Digital System (www.fdsys.gov) and through partnerships with approximately 1,220 libraries nationwide participating in the Federal Depository Library Program. For more information, please visit www.gpo.gov. Follow GPO on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/USGPO Twitter http://twitter.com/USGPO and on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/gpoprinter.

Source http://www.groundreport.com/Business/FORMER-PUBLIC-PRINTER-ROBER-W-HOUK-REMEMBERED-BY-G/2942923

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Transparency and Its Discontents

Remember when you had to wait until the end of the month to see your bank statement?

Last week, on the cusp of failing to pass any annual appropriations bills ahead of the October 1 start of the new fiscal year, congressional leaders came up with a short-term government funding bill (or “continuing resolution”) that would fund the government until November 18th. For whatever reason, that deal (H.R. 2608) wasn’t ready to go before the end of the week, so Congress passed an even shorter-term continuing resolution (H.R. 2017) that funds the government until tomorrow, October 4th.

Every weekend, I hunch over my computer and update key records in the database of WashingtonWatch.com, a government transparency website I run as a non-partisan, non-ideological resource (disclosure: it’s my own, not a Cato project). Then I put a summary of what’s going on into an email like this one (subscribe!) that goes out to 7,000 or so of my closest friends.

Last weekend, the Library of Congress’ THOMAS website, which is one of my resources, was down a good chunk of the time for maintenance. Even after it came up again, some materials such as bill text and committee reports weren’t available. (They had come up by the wee hours this morning.) Maintenance is necessary sometimes, though when the service provider I use for the WashingtonWatch.com email does maintenance, it’s usually for an hour or so in the middle of a weekend night.

But when I went to update the database to reflect last week’s passage of H.R. 2017, I could find no record of its public law number. When a bill becomes a law, it gets a public law number starting with the number of the Congress that passed and then a sequential number, like Public Law No. 112-29. The Government Printing Office’s FDsys system lets you browse public laws. At this writing, it isn’t updated to reflect the passage of new laws last week. When THOMAS came back up, its public laws page also had no data to reflect the passage of that continuing resolution last week (and still doesn’t, also at this writing).

There is barely any news reporting on humdrum details about governing like the passage of a law expending $40 billion in taxpayer funds. (That’s about what H.R. 2017 spends to operate the government four more days, roughly $400 per U.S. family.) Where can you confirm with an official source that this happened?

The winning data resource this week, if by default, is Whitehouse.gov, which has a page dedicated to laws the president has signed. That page says that President Obama signed four new laws on Friday (Sept. 30). When might FDsys or THOMAS reflect this information? It’ll happen soon, and that data will start to propagate out to society.

But I think that’s not soon enough. A couple of days’ delay is a big deal.

If I were to take $400 in cash out of my bank account at an ATM, I could review that transaction from that instant forward on my bank’s website. If I had a concern or even a passing interest, I could just go look. That is an utterly unremarkable service in this day and age.

But it’s remarkable that such a service doesn’t exist in systems that are as important as our bank accounts. When Congress and the president pass a bill to spend $40 billion dollars, the fact of its passage is pretty much undocumented by any official sources until enough Mon-Fri, 9-to-5 work hours have passed.

In my recently published paper, Publication Practices for Transparent Government, I go through the things the government should do to make itself more transparent (thus improving public oversight and producing lots of felicitous outcomes). A practice I cite is “real-time or near-real-time publication.” Why? Because then any of the 300 million Americans who have an interest, real or passing, can see what is happening with their money as it happens, just like they can with their bank holdings. People like me (and many more) can propagate complete and timely information, making it that much more accessible.

When you’re talking about a potential audience of 200 million people and $40 billion in expense (one of the tiniest spending bills—others are much larger), it is not too much to ask to have the data published in real time.

I don’t expect a lot of people to join me at the barricades with pitchforks and torches on this one. Government transparency is an area ruled by implicit demand. People don’t know what they are missing, so they don’t know to suffer a sense of deprivation. I do that for them—all of them. (Heroic, idn’t it?)

Before too long, though, the government’s opacity will be recognized as a contributor to the public’s general—and strong—distaste for all that goes on in Washington, D.C. The idea of spending $400 per U.S. family without documenting every detail of it on the Internet will seem as absurd as waiting until the end of the month to see what happened in your bank account.

Source http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/transparency-and-its-discontents/

Friday, July 22, 2011

Case Study: United States Government Printing Office (US GPO)

Despite being a free-to-air, public-facing search application, the US GPO’s FDSys project is an extremely useful case study for large-scale enterprise search systems, as it is required to deal with dozens of highly disparate data sources and a wide range of user types about whom nothing can be assumed or predicted. Unlike the vast majority of enterprise search case studies, the resulting search application can be seen and used by the reader which helps to clearly illustrate a number of important best practices for search implementation.

Please click on the link below to open the white paper in a new window, or right click and "Save As"

Please provide a valid email address to access this white paper, which is an instantly downloadable PDF.

Email Address

Source http://www.searchtechnologies.com/us-government-printing-office.html

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

USDA Invites Applications for Value Added Producer Grant to Assist Farmers

Applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.

“By creating value-added products, farmers and ranchers can expand economic opportunities, create jobs and keep wealth in rural communities,” Merrigan said. “These funding opportunities will promote business expansion and entrepreneurship by helping local businesses get access to capital, technical assistance and new markets for their products and services.”

“Investing in the ideas of rural Texans is a direct route to the economic recovery of our rural communities," said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director. “I urge rural Texans to take advantage of this funding opportunity to increase the value of their agricultural products and create jobs in their communities.

The application deadline is August 29, 2011. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-06-28/html/2011-16121.htm or the June 28, 2011, Federal Register. Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.

Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.

Source http://www.kbtx.com/money/headlines/USDA_Invites_Applications_for_Value_Added_Producer_Grant_to_Assist_Farmers__125013919.html

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FDsys - Browse CHRG

Congressional Hearings

A hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest. Most congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held.

Not all congressional hearings are available on FDsys - GPO Access. Whether or not a hearing is disseminated on FDsys - GPO Access depends on the committee. GPO continues to add hearings irregularly as they become available during each session of Congress. If a congressional hearing is not listed in the catalog, it is not available electronically via GPO at this time.

FDsys - GPO Access contains contain selected House and Senate hearings for the 105th Congress (1997-98) forward. The House and Senate appropriations hearings for fiscal year 1998 are included. Documents are available as text and PDF. Graphics, including scanned images of camera ready copy are omitted from the ASCII text version but are contained in the PDF files. About the Congressional Hearings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Is Printing the Congressional Record Wasteful?

On a relatively recent visit to the Government Printing Office, I was surprised to learn that despite the great work former Public Printers Bruce James and Bob Tapella have done with FDSys (the system that makes electronic versions of government documents such as the Congressional Record and Federal Register available to the government and the public), the GPO was still printing the Congressional Record–about 1,500 copies DAILY every day Congress is in session, I was told. (And the Federal Register, by the way.) I questioned why that would be, since the information is available online before it is available in printed form. Each issue can be hundreds of pages, depending on what went on in Congress that day. I wondered what happens to all that paper. Where is it stored? Does anyone ever look at it? Why is it even still being printed in those volumes? According to my tour guide, people still wanted the paper. And according to the release cited below, that number is actually 4,551 copies! (I thought 1,500 was low if it was going to everyone, multiple copies to each Congress person’s office, etc.).

Today, Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced the Congressional Record Printing Savings Act of 2011, a bill they say would save taxpayers up to $8 million by requiring the Government Printing Office to limit excessive printing of the Congressional Record. According to the release, “The GPO annually spends over $8 million to print hard copies of the Congressional Record that are rarely used since these documents have been digitally available since 1994. Approximately 4,551 copies of the Congressional Record are printed daily [on offset web presses] at the cost of roughly $240 per original page. The Congressional Record Printing Savings Act would require that the distribution of the printed edition is limited to archival purposes and those copies explicitly requested by the Vice President or Members of Congress.”

With digital presses and a DI press in the production mix, paper copies could certainly be produced on demand for archiving purposes or when needed. It is easier to search the electronic copy for the specific nugget someone might want to reference. I can’t imagine anyone curling up with a copy and reading it cover to cover, on a daily basis!

In general, I would support this type of approach, but it needs to be accompanied by a firm commitment to maintain and grow FDSys. My sources tell me that all funding for maintaining/expanding FDSys have been cut. Since Public Printer Bill Boarman (still not officially confirmed despite a recess appointment) refuses to speak to me — and anyone else in the press if my sources are correct — I can’t validate this. However, it would seem that the Senators who put forth this bill should attach a requirement that FDSys continue to be funded at a level that is reasonable to ensure continued access to these valuable documents in perpetuity, according to the mission of the GPO, and to continue to grow the volume of content available on the system as well as continuing to improve accessibility to said information.

Just my two cents worth. More than happy to present Mr. Boarman’s perspective if he would give me 30 minutes of his time for an interview!

Source http://printceo.com/2011/03/is-printing-the-congressional-record-wasteful/

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

76 FR 14777 - US Government Printing Office - FDsys - More Information

76 FR 14777 - Supplemental Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Federal Labor Relations Authority

Download Files


SuDoc Class Number - AE 2.7: GS 4.107: AE 2.106:
Summary - The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), with the concurrence of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), is adopting as final, without change, the interim FLRA rule that supplements the executive-branch-wide Standards of Ethical Conduct (Standards) issued by OGE and, with certain exceptions, requires FLRA employees to obtain approval before engaging in outside employment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FDsys Helps GPO Provide Access to Federal Digital Publications

"It’s like an all-you-can eat buffet, but all the options are healthy for you," said Kate Zwaard, the Government Printing Office’s Lead Program Planner for Digital Preservation, in a visit to the Library of Congress on November 16, 2010.

Kate Zwaard

Zwaard was talking about the GPO Federal Digital System , a suite of tools and services that helps the agency preserve and provide long-term access to the digital publications of the Federal government.

A webcast of the event is now available.

"FDsys is a preservation repository in the traditional sense, in that it conforms to the Open Archival Information System reference model (PDF)," Zwaard said, "but it’s also a content management system and an advanced search engine." And while the FDsys is a modern software environment, the roots of the issues it was designed to solve go back to the early days of GPO.

The FDLP worked remarkably well for print publications for over a century, but as agencies opted to host more and more publications on their websites instead of printing them, it became more difficult for users to find what they were looking for. Instead of going to a library or a catalog and looking for an item, you had to know what organization (or sub-organization) was responsible for producing the documents and where they were posted on the web.

More importantly, no federal government entity looked after preservation of the content for public access. Material could be put on a webpage and taken down the next day, or accidentally corrupted, or rendered unusable by obsolescence of technology.

Kate Zwaard

Zwaard described the decisions made by the Public Printer of the United States in 2004 to outline a strategic vision to turn what some called "disruptive technologies" into opportunities. GPO had been publishing content to the web for public access through its website GPO Access since 1993, but the Public Printer’s report lead to the development of the more comprehensive FDsys.

"What sets FDsys apart from most preservation repositories is that it is both a content repository and a system that serves as the electronic backbone of the agency," Zwaard noted. "We’ve built a repository that is designed to maintain the usability of our assets free from dependence on specific hardware and software. But a big part of the system is about providing an organization for content and a workflow to help move publications through the agency for cataloging, proofing, print and possible reuse."

Zwaard went on to describe the technological features of FDsys, including the structure of content packages, the content lifecycle and the GPO approach to content integrity and authenticity.

"We have lots of specialized experience in helping people find the government information they are looking for," she concluded, "and our experts thought carefully about the ways users might navigate to what they want and the kinds of metadata we need to collect to support that. In addition, GPO is preparing for a Trustworthy Repositories Audit and Certification audit . I believe we will be the first Federal agency to be audited for TRAC compliance, and we are excited to have someone take a look at our work and suggest places for improvement."

Source http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/news/2011/20110301_news_zwaard_briefing.html

Industry Day Registration Closed

Registration for the October 6, 2005 GPO FDsys Industry Day is now closed. The meeting will be held at GPO's main facility, 732 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC (USA). A more detailed agenda is now available. We will be sending confirmation emails to all registered attendees by 4:00 PM on 9/30/05. In addition, an email will be sent that includes directions to GPO and additional information. Thank you for your interest in FDsys. For additional information, please contact the Office of Innovation and New Technology at int@gpo.gov.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Final Library Survey Results

The final results of the Depository Library survey have been posted to the FDsys Web site here. In addition to the results, GPO has identified the following next steps:
  1. Definitions and clarifications of terms used in the survey that respondents indicated were confusing will be posted by October 21, 2005 to the Library Survey Results page on the FDsys Web site.
  2. The survey results indicated areas of interest most important to the library community. Additional interaction with GPO’s library partners is required to validate these findings. GPO will use library focus groups and other means including face-to-face meetings, conference calls, and web conferencing to obtain this input. This initiative will begin in late October 2005.
  3. Feedback from library partners is highly encouraged. All appropriate questions and comments submitted to the FDsys blog (http://fdsys.blogspot.com/) or the Office of Innovation and New Technology’s e-mail address (int@gpo.gov) will be promptly answered. INT will also make questions and answers to frequently asked questions available on the FDsys blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Clarification of Library Survey Terms

Listed below are definitions for terms used in the FDsys Library survey that some respondents indicated needed additional clarification. Questions regarding this information should be submitted to the Office of Innovation and New Technology at int@gpo.gov.

Push: Intentionally and specifically serving out information to a target recipient(s).
Content is automatically sent (“pushed”) from GPO to a list of interested users. This is analogous to shipping a box of depository documents, only with electronic content instead of tangible copy.

Pull: Downloading content on an as-needed basis.
Content is made available for users to select and retrieve (“pull”) to local servers or computers. For example, currently users may be said to pull documents from GPO Access.

Migration: Preservation of digital content, where the underlying information is retained but older formats and internal structures are replaced by newer.
Migration involves transforming files to ensure that they can be accessed using current hardware and software. The content is retained, but the file format changes as technology changes.
Example: a Microsoft Word 97 file is migrated to a Microsoft Word 2000 file.

Emulation: The imitation of one computing system by another system through the use of software and hardware that allow the latter to run programs written for the former.
Emulation involves re-creating an obsolete operating system or piece of software on an up to date operating system or piece of software. This allows the digital objects associated with the obsolete system to be accessed without changing the file format.
Example: Microsoft Word 97 is emulated on a current system so that files saved in Microsoft Word 97 format can be accessed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Digital Content System Update

The presentation given by Mike Wash at the Fall Depository Library Conference in Washington, DC is available at the Web site here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Master Integrator Acquisition Update

Drafts of a Statement of Objectives (SOO) and Sections L and M of the RFP for Master Integrator (MI) services are now available through FedBizOpps. Questions and Comments related to the draft should be submitted to Herb Jackson at hjackson@gpo.gov no later than January 20, 2006. It is our goal to release the final RFP in the March 2006 time frame.

Master Integrator Day
GPO will have a follow up meeting for all interested MI candidates shortly after the close of the comment period. Our target date for this event is January 24, 2006. Please note that this meeting is intended for MI candidates. GPO will host additional industry events for vendors interested in the products, technologies and solutions for Releases 1 and 2 as defined in the document Releases and Capabilities once the MI contract has been awarded. The Master Integrator Day meeting agenda and registration information can be viewed here.

Future Meetings
Release 1 Industry Day (Planning Ongoing)
GPO will have an industry focused meeting for all vendors interested in the products, technologies and solutions for the series of releases identified as Releases 1 in the Releases and Capabilities document. This meeting is intended for vendors who have specific products, technologies and solutions for the system functionality anticipated in Release 1.

Release 2 Industry Day (Anticipated)
GPO will have an additional industry focused meeting for all vendors interested in the products, technologies and solutions for release 2 as defined in the Releases and Capabilities document. This meeting will be planned after the products, technologies and solutions are selected for Release 1. This meeting is intended for vendors who have specific expertise, products, technologies and solutions for the system functionality anticipated in Release 2.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Document Update

The document "FDsys System Releases and Capabilities" has been updated to version 2.1 and is available here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

GPO Access is now FDsys

Beginning December 20, 2010, FDsys has replaced the Government Printing Office’s GPO Access service for finding online Federal Government publications.

You can use the search tool to find Congressional Reports, Bills, and Calendars, Public and Private Laws, the Federal Register, United States Government Manual, and much more!

Journalism Library Blog