Spotlight: GPO

What federal agency has shrunk to its smallest size in more than a century? The answer—the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)—is no surprise, given the huge changes in printing and information technology that have taken place in recent decades. The agency that once printed, bound, and distributed about 25,000 copies of the Congressional Record every morning now prints only 2,800 copies and has moved many of its operations online. Since 1980, GPO has reduced its workforce by 70%—a rate of change that is unparalleled among other legislative branch agencies. Buyouts and early retirements offered in the second half of 2011—as GPO celebrated its 150th anniversary—resulted in the elimination of 312 positions.  The agency now has 1,920 employees, down from a peak of 8,500 in 1972.

GPO is the federal government’s primary centralized resource for “producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the U.S. Government.” The agency is responsible for the production and distribution of information products for all three branches of the federal government, including the official publications of Congress, the White House, other federal agencies, and the courts—as well as Trusted Traveler Program cards and U.S. passports. In addition to selling its publications to the public—in both digital and printed formats, primarily  via its online bookstore (bookstore.gpo.gov)—GPO provides permanent, free public access to federal government information through its Federal Digital System (www.fdsys.gov) and through partnerships with the approximately 1,220 libraries nationwide that participate in the Federal Depository Library Program.

GPO headquarters has been located at 732 North Capitol Street, NW, at the corner of North Capitol and H Street, since the agency opened on March 4, 1861. The agency currently occupies four buildings, three on the west side of North Capitol and one on the east, including a bookstore at 710 North Capitol that has been in existence since 1921 and was updated in 2010. This real estate is well situated near both Union Station and the U.S. Capitol and it has significant redevelopment value, especially when one also factors in the huge surface parking lots servicing the GPO facilities.  For years, there has been discussion of the possibility that the value of this property would somehow be monitized.  Given GPO’s rapidly changing operational needs and reduced space requirements, we would expect GPO’s complex to be among the real estate ultimately targeted for disposition if the Civilian Property Realignment Act is passed.

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