Bipartisan Group Introduces Bill to Stop the Government from Selling Reports Available Online for Free
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and U.S. Representatives Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) today introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act, a bill to eliminate an outdated agency that has lost more than $1 million trying to sell government reports that are available for free online. With a money-losing profit model only the government could design, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) sells free government reports to other federal agencies and the public – at a loss.
“This is the ‘let me google that for you’ office of the federal government,” said Dr. Coburn. “Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own. NTIS is selling at least six of the oversight reports issued by my office, such as the annual Wastebook which details outrageous Washington spending and mismanagement. Ironically, the latest edition of Wastebook—which lists NTIS as one of the most wasteful government offices—is not available for sale yet by NTIS. I have sent a letter to the Department of Commerce today requesting the office stop charging for the reports that I issue to taxpayers at no cost that highlight government waste, like the NTIS.”
“This agency has clearly outlived its usefulness,” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “I find it staggering that the agency is selling government reports both to the public and to other federal agencies that are widely available for free and easy to find with a simple Google search—and the agency is still losing money. I think Americans would gain a little more confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely if we ended this display of waste and inefficiency. This is a government office performing a function that the advent of the Internet has made outdated, and it’s past time we eliminate it.”
“Only the Federal Government would attempt to sell what you can get for free, make no money, then subsidize the failure,” said Congressman Bridenstine. “I am proud to stand with Dr. Coburn in eliminating this office.”
“Voters send us to Washington to write effective legislation and make sure the federal government is operating in a responsible manner,” said Congressman Cuellar. “That a government agency is selling free reports to another part of the government and the general public is a prime example of federal overreach and inefficiency. The Let Me Google That For You Act is an excellent step towards streamlining the way the government works and keeping Washington accountable.”
Last year, the Government Accountability Office highlighted NTIS’ operations, in its annual duplication report, finding, “Of the reports added to NTIS’s repository during fiscal years 1990 through 2011 … approximately 74 percent were readily available from other public sources.” Meanwhile, from 1995 to 2000, the office sold only 8 percent of the 2.5 million reports in its repertoire. NTIS has lost on average at least $1.3 million over the last 11 year, running a deficit on its document production for nearly a decade.
Eliminating the office should be a top priority for Congress as it looks for commonsense and bipartisan ways to reduce federal spending, increase government efficiency, and act upon one of the GAO’s recommendations to eliminate unnecessary duplication.