GPO chief says its time to update agency name to reflect digital push

U.S. Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks on "The Federal Drive" with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp

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Over the past few years, the Government Printing Office has been shifting away from its traditional mission of ink-on-paper printing in favor of digital distribution of key government documents.

So, is it time for a new name for the agency?

Davita Vance-Cooks, who was officially sworn in as the head of the agency last week, says there’s a more accurate moniker for the work the agency does today: Government Publishing Office.

“We want this name change, because we are just much more than a print operation,” Vance-Cooks said in an interview on Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp. “We want it to more accurately reflect the function of what we do today. We produce digital products, utilize digital equipment, embrace digital processes, create digital databases, develop apps — we just do so much more than print. We are a publishing operation.”

Davita Vance-Cooks

The topic of GPO’s proposed name-change was most recently broached during the Senate’s nomination hearing for Vance-Cooks, who had been serving as acting head of the agency since January 2012. in June. Since then, GPO has had a few conversations with the oversight committees, although no legislation has yet been formulated, she said.

Agency rebrandings are not unheard of. Nine years ago, Congress approved a request to rename the General Accounting Office the Government Accountability Office to reflect the watchdog agency’s focus on program management .

Digital focus includes multiple platforms

GPO’s focus on digital platforms only makes sense, Vance-Cooks said, since that’s often the best way to distribute information about the federal government to the widest audience.

“The most effective strategy of getting the information to most of the people is to put these products online,” Vance-Cooks said.

The agency is currently planning an expansion of its FDSys portal, a digital database of hundreds of thousands of government documents that boasts as many as 45 million downloads a month, Vance-Cooks said. GPO is also planning to upgrade the site’s search functionality.

“We’re also starting to use social media to let people know that we are here, we have government documents and that they are vital to the nation.”

The next frontier is app development, Vance-Cooks said. “We’ve already developed several apps already because we know that the younger generation, the new generation, wants that information readily available and at their fingertips.”

GPO developed its first mobile app in late 2011. Last year, the agency’s launch of an official White House budget app, which offered the President’s fiscal 2013 budget request in a mobile-friendly form, was honored with an award from the Center for Digital Government.

Other GPO apps include a picture directory of members of Congress.

GPO’s most recent strategic plan, which launched a few years, is helping plot the agency’s digital course.

“It’s important for us to have an idea of where we’re going as we shift from a print-centric operation to a digital operation,” Vance-Cooks said. “And in so doing, I’m bringing the employees along with me in the strategic plan — they’re buying into it, and they understand it.”


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