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Cost-cutting saves GPO from financial crisis, chief says

Apr. 10, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks says the Government Printing Office "is well-positioned to be effective, efficient and relevant."
Acting Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks says the Government Printing Office "is well-positioned to be effective, efficient and relevant." (Government Printing Office)

At risk of needing a congressional bailout 18 months ago, the Government Printing Office slashed its workforce, cut employee benefits, rented out excess office space and took other steps to stabilize its finances.

Now, the agency "is well-positioned to be effective, efficient and relevant," acting chief Davita Vance-Cooks said Tuesday.

GPO last year was among the first to offer buyouts and early retirements to encourage employees to leave. Those helped shrink the workforce from about 2,200 to 1,900, Vance-Cooks told participants at an Association of Government Accountants conference in Washington.

The size of the workforce, http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120124/PERSONNEL03/201240301/">now at its lowest point in a century, continues to decline, she said in an interview afterwards.

GPO also has rented out 100,000 square feet of unused space at its four-building complex near Capitol Hill to the Capitol Police and other congressional agencies. Those leases will bring in several million dollars annually, Vance-Cooks said, adding "that I would like to lease out as much as I can."

More savings came from halting recruitment and retention bonuses and ending payments on employees' student loans.

And as its traditional "ink on paper" business declines, GPO is pursuing niche markets, such as producing secure credentials for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies at this year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis.

Up until the beginning of fiscal 2011, the agency's expenses were increasing about 7 percent annually on average, Vance-Cooks said. The agency's chief financial officer warned that a congressional bailout would eventually be needed if nothing changed.

For fiscal 2013, the GPO is seeking about $126 million from Congress, the same as this year.

Vance-Cooks, who has been acting public printer since January, spoke on the theme of "leading with less in the federal government."

While the employee benefits cuts are not popular, those steps were necessary, she said. She stressed, however, the importance of keeping workers in the loop.

"When you start to go through those kinds of changes, you really need to tell your employees what you're doing and why," she said. "You cannot overcommunicate."

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