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Senators Propose Rebranding GPO as Government Publishing Office

Since 1861, the Government Printing Office has been churning out federal documents. Now, with more and more of those products being published online, the congressional agency feels ready for a rebrand.

Congress might be on course to grant a name change with a proposal from Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The Minnesota Democrat introduced a bill last week to redesignate the GPO as the Government Publishing Office.

Swapping “printing” for “publishing” would help the agency promote its transition from the ink-and-paper era to the digital age, especially on social media, Klobuchar pointed out during a June 12 hearing on the confirmation of Davita Vance-Cooks to be public printer.

Vance-Cooks, who also broached the idea during a House hearing on the future of the GPO, suggests that the current name is limiting and doesn’t represent the full scope of GPO products including eBooks, mobile apps and thousands of downloads on its vast Federal Digital System.

“Publishing defines a broad range of services that includes print, digital, and future technological advancements,” Vance-Cooks said in a statement on the bill’s introduction. “The name Government Publishing Office better reflects the services that GPO currently provides and will provide in the future.”

After 25 years of private sector experience in product development, market research and operations management, plus nearly a decade at the GPO, Vance-Cooks has been stressing a new branding strategy as part of her agency’s strategic approach to selling its services. Unlike other congressional agencies, only 16 percent of the GPO’s funding comes from congressional appropriations.

A similar rebrand took place a decade ago, when the General Accounting Office became known as the Government Accountability Office. Like the proposed GPO edit, the update tinkered with the agency’s public identity while preserving its established acronym.

Vance-Cooks would still be “CEO of the GPO,” and the change wouldn’t bother the letterhead, Klobuchar said during the June hearing.

The bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by fellow Senate Rules and Administration Committee member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., sounded supportive of a transformation when Vance-Cooks testified before Miller’s committee on Dec. 4, but Miller also warned that the name change alone “just doesn’t seem like enough to me.”

She suggested more drastic measures, such as leasing out space at the GPO’s North Capitol Street headquarters, to help the agency modify its operational structure to make ends meet in the digital age.

“The GPO has worked hard to keep pace with the realities of the digital age, transitioning from traditional printing to digital publishing — this is no longer the GPO of 1860,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This is a minor legislative change that Senator Chambliss and I believe better reflects the actual work of the agency.”

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