Marching Orders for U.S. GPO
Quick: Name the man who spends 80% of his time focusing on the future of the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Informed publishing professionals might point to Bruce James, the 24th Public Printer of the United States (a post first held by Benjamin Franklin).
That's a good guess, but wrong. The U.S. GPO's new strategic thinker is James's chief of staff, Frank Parlow.
A retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and former business consultant to the Public Printer, Parlow is drafting the strategic plan that will bring the U.S. GPO into the 21st century.
As part of that process, Parlow is analyzing issues confronting not only the U.S. GPO, but the publishing and printing industries in general.
"The Government Printing Office was conceived as a 19th-century entity," Parlow says. "It dates from the 19th century, and went through the 20th when print on paper was the mechanism by which the government provided information to people. That's the past. The question is, what is the future?"
Parlow's answer can be summed up in two words: Big changes. "Print is an industry changing dramatically," he says. "Hence, the missions of the Government Printing Office are changing dramatically. That's what I see in the future."
But change won't happen overnight. Parlow set aside his first year in office to conduct a variety of studies, in concert with the U.S. Government Accounting Office.
GAO auditors are analyzing federal agencies to determine what sort of printing is being done, who is doing it, and what the costs are. Then the team will evaluate the latest printing technologies, and see how they fit with the U.S. GPO's mandate.
"We expect to have enough information to allow us to do a real transformation of the Government Printing Office into something else," Parlow says. "I can't tell you yet what that something else might be, but it almost certainly will not be what it has been for the last 50 years or so."