NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
Issue 101, JANUARY 2004

Table of Contents

  1. EPA and 9/11 Report
  2. Those Jobless Numbers
  3. Cast Your Vote! Choose the Most Influential Documents in American History
  4. And the Top Ten Most Influential Documents Turn Out To Be:
  5. Alternative Census Data Sources When America Factfinder is Down
  6. Grants.gov Launched
  7. Recalls.gov Launched
  8. GovBenefits.gov Now Covers State Resources
  9. White House Web Scrubbing
  10. The Numbers Racket
  11. ERIC Reengineering Plan Underway
  12. Judith C. Russell on the Future of Depository Systems
  13. Bush Creates Commission on Space Exploration


(1) EPA and 9/11 Report

Seeking to assuage fears about the health threat posed by contaminated air at Ground Zero, the Environmental Protection Agency in the days immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks issued a series of press releases that played down the risks of bad air in Lower Manhattan. One release, dated September 18, stated simply, "The air is safe to breathe." But a recent report from the EPA's inspector general suggests that the agency didn't have enough information in September of 2001 to make such a blanket statement about health risks. Moreover, the report reveals, 25 percent of the dust samples taken between September 11 and September 18 in fact exhibited asbestos levels high enough to warrant serious health concerns. What accounts for the agency's haste in reassuring the American public before the facts were known? White House meddling: according to the report, White House staff pressured the EPA into replacing cautionary language from drafts of early press releases with reassuring statements about air quality. If a report by Democrats on the House Committee on Government Reform is to be believed, the Bush Administration has not been shy about distorting scientific studies. The report documents numerous instances of the White House's "manipulating scientific advisory committees," "distorting and suppressing scientific information," and "interfering with scientific research and analysis."

Sources: (1) Atlantic Monthly, Primary Sources, December 2003; (2) EPA's Response to the World Trade Center Collapse: Challenges, Successes, and Areas of Improvement and Supplemental Appendices, EPA, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation Report No. 2003-P-00012; (3) Survey of Air Quality Information Related to the World Trade Center Collapse, EPA, Office of the Inspector General Evaluation Report No. 2003-P-00014, Sept. 26, 2003; (4) Politics and Science in the Bush Administration, Report prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff Special Investigations Division, August 2003; (5) Politics and Science : Investigating the Bush Administration's Promotion of Ideology Over Science, Web page maintianed by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, U.S. Congress, House Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff Special Investigations Division.

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(2) Those Jobless Numbers

There's a good reason why today's unemployed are having a tough time getting back to work: in many cases their old jobs have simply vanished for good. According to a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 79 percent of U.S. employment is now in industries undergoing "structural" job losses—meaning that employers have no plans to fill the positions they are cutting, even if the economy picks up. During previous downturns about half of the workforce was employed in industries going through cyclical unemployment, so more people who lost their jobs were likely to be rehired as companies ramped up their production. But structural job losses are harder for the labor market to recover from. Creating wholly new jobs involves more time and risk for companies than filling previously existing spots by recalling furloughed workers. And it's harder for laid-off workers to find new jobs (and to learn new skills) than to return to jobs they've previously held. Nevertheless, the report cautions that some concerns over the extent of recent job losses may be overblown. For one thing, unemployment rates remain relatively low compared to those seen in recent recessions. For another, discouraged workers—who are often cited as a source of "hidden" unemployment, because they've given up looking for work altogether and no longer appear in the government's official unemployment statistics—account for only six percent of those who have left the work force entirely since the recession began. Teenagers, who are now dropping out of school less frequently and devoting more time to studying during the summer, make up half of the hidden-unemployment total.

Source: (1) Atlantic Monthly, Primary Sources, December 2003; and (2) Has Structural Change Contributed to a Jobless Recovery?, Current Issues in Economics and Finance, August 2003, Vol. 9, No. 8, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

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(3) Cast Your Vote! Public to Choose Most Influential Documents in American History

The Declaration of Independence . . . the Emancipation Proclamation . . . Brown v. Board of Education . . . Thomas Edison's patent application for the light bulb . . . these records, and many others, have shaped and changed the history of the United States. Now you will have the chance to help decide which documents have had the greatest influence on our country.

Since last September, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been working with National History Day, the USA Freedom Corps, and other partners on a project titled Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics, and Service. The purpose of Our Documents is to encourage all Americans to participate in a series of events and programs to get us thinking, talking, and teaching about the rights and responsibilities of citizens in our democracy.

Our Documents focuses on one hundred milestone documents drawn from the public laws, Supreme Court decisions, inaugural speeches, treaties, constitutional amendments, and millions of other records that have influenced the course of U.S. history that are held primarily by NARA.

The list begins with the Lee Resolution of June 7, 1776, a simple document resolving that the United Colonies "are, and of right, ought to be free and independent states." Richard Henry Lee introduced this resolution in the Second Continental Congress, and it was approved on July 2, setting in motion the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. While virtually all Americans are familiar with the Declaration of Independence, far fewer know of the role the Lee Resolution played in the history of our country. Our Documents gives insight into well-known historical records like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as lesser known records such as the Lee Resolution and President Thomas Jefferson's secret message to Congress asking for funds for what became the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The time span of the documents runs from 1776 to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The milestone documents illustrate our evolution as a society. For example, while the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling of 1896 upheld "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races," the case of Brown v. Board of Education overturned this ruling in 1954, signaling the end of legalized racial separation in U.S. schools.

Likewise, these records show the quest of Americans to have a say in their government. The Constitution as originally written in 1787 mentions little about the right to vote. At the time, it was thought that only a privileged few should be allowed this right. But Americans fought passionately for the right to vote, regardless of race or gender, and this is illustrated in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which in 1870 enfranchised African American men; the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the vote in 1920; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed discriminatory electoral practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War.

All of the milestone documents have helped shape our national character, and they reflect our diversity, our unity, and our commitment as a nation to continue our work toward forming "a more perfect union."

The complete list of milestone documents with brief explanations, a discussion of key themes in the documents, a timeline putting the documents in chronological perspective, along with lesson plans and classroom exercises for teachers is available at the project's web site at http://www.ourdocuments.gov.

Also, a new book, titled Our Documents, which features descriptions, transcriptions, and images of the one hundred milestone documents will be available in the National Archives Experience museum shop when the National Archives Building reopens to the public on September 18, as well as at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, and at Presidential libraries.

National History Day, a nonprofit history education program dedicated to improving the way history is taught and learned, is working closely with NARA on continuing Our Documents initiatives. National History Day recently conducted the first Our Documents lesson plan competition for educators. Teachers from across the country were invited to develop and test a classroom lesson focusing on one or several of the milestone documents. A second competition is planned for the current school year.

Comments from both students and teachers show that the primary sources of Our Documents help to bring history alive. For example, Lori Maynard, a seventh-grade teacher from Bakersfield, California, was one of the winners of the competition with her lesson, "Jim Crow Must Go: The Civil Rights Act of 1964." She says, "I have found that many students are unaware of segregation and the effects it had on our nation. Therefore, this competition created the perfect opportunity to do something about it. This document offers an excellent example of an instance in which the federal government overturned state laws that were unfair, immoral, unjust, and unconstitutional."

One of Maynard's students commented, "We all cover segregation in elementary school, but it was made so that it didn't look like things were so bad. This was the 'real deal.'"

To help teachers incorporate these records in their teaching, NARA and National History Day have created a new resource book that includes lesson plans and classroom activities. A commemorative poster has also been designed for use by educators. The sourcebook and poster are available on the Our Documents web site.

While many of the initiatives of Our Documents are geared to students, we encourage everyone to take part in this exciting project. Starting September 17 —- Constitution Day -— the public can participate in The People's Vote to decide which ten of the one hundred documents have most changed or shaped the course of American history. Look for the September 22 issue of U.S. News and World Report for details and a People's Vote ballot. Voters can also cast their ballots electronically at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/documents/document_main.htm and in person at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, regional archives, and at Presidential libraries.

The ten records deemed by the public to be the most influential will be announced on December 15—Bill of Rights Day—and will be highlighted in the December 22 issue of U.S. News and World Report.

Through this vote, and by giving people more insight into the documents that have shaped our country's history, NARA and its partners hope to spark discussion and debate on the values and ideals of our society over the last 227 years. Because the act of voting is fundamental to a democracy and understanding the documentary foundations on which America is built is crucial to participating in government, The People's Vote will give Americans the opportunity to really connect to their history and their government

I am proud that NARA is a partner in this unique national educational initiative, and I invite you to cast your vote for the records you believe have been most influential in our national history.

Source: Article by John W. Carlin appearing in Prologue: A Quarterly Publication of the National Archives and Records Administration, Fall 2003, Vol. 35, No. 3.

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(4) And the Top Ten Most Influential Documents Turn Out To Be:

  1. The Declaration of Independence, 75.9 percent
  2. The U.S. Constitution, 69.3 percent
  3. The Bill of Rights, 67.9 percent
  4. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty, 34.3 percent
  5. The Emancipation Proclamation, 33.5 percent
  6. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, 31.4 percent
  7. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, 30.1 percent
  8. The Gettysburg Address, 25.4 percent
  9. The Civil Rights Act, 25.2 percent
  10. The Social Security Act, 20.9 percent
Source: U.S. Newswire, December 15, 2003.

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(5) Alternative Census Data Sources When America Factfinder is Down

You may be able to find some of the information you need in printed (pdf) "Special Reports" or "Census Briefs" prepared by Census demographers. They have analytical material and many tables. Since you seem to need data only at the state level, you may find what you need in these briefs. There are some on race, families, income, education and many other topics: http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/briefs.html

You also have access to the 4 Demographic Profiles thru the Census 2000 Gateway, looking under the heading "Data Highlights". The direct link to the profiles which can be accessed by state for all 50 states, counties, places (cities and towns) and some other geographic types. The DP1- General Demographic Characteristics has age, sex and race data; the DP2 - Social Characteristics has education, ancestry, marital status data; the DP3 - Economic Characteristics has data on income, employment, and poverty; and the DP4 Housing Characteristics has data on the number of rooms in a housing unit, the costs of housing, etc. The direct url for these tables is: http://censtats.census.gov/pub/Profiles.shtml

There are many tables from the Census that were prepared and published in Excel or pdf format, they are available for many different type of data, from the page: http://www.census.gov/census2000/states/us.html. Look for the Demographic Profiles or Redistricting data set or table links with the "pdf or excel" format, (NOT American FactFinder). The Rankings and Comparisons Tables (from Census 2000) have many tables in pdf or spreadsheet format. They are found at: http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/tablist.html

Another source that may be useful, and is available separately from the American FactFinder site, is the American Community Survey data. It has basically the same data as the Census 2000, for the years 2000, 2001, and 2002. The data is not available for small areas, but the 2002 data covers the larger cities and counties. The url is: http://www.census.gov/acs/www/

Data from the Census 2000 and other sources is available for high-level geographies in the Statistical Abstract, which is available on-line on the Census Bureau site at: http://www.census.gov/statab/www/

For 1990 Census data you can still find it on the 1990 Census page: http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen1990.html

and this url for tables: http://www.census.gov/population/www/censusdata/90_shortformsubjects.html

There are also many local and regional sources for the census data who have downloaded and reformatted the data into their own systems. The link to these sites is: http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/groupcnr.html.

Good luck.

Sincerely,

American FactFinder Staff,
US Census Bureau

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(6) Grants.gov

Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson officially launched a grants portal, which lets organizations find and apply for government grants on December 9, 2003.

Grants.gov serves as the common face for federal grant program information and applications.

The site directs grant seekers to over 800 programs offered by the 26 grant-making agencies and streamlines the process of awarding over $360 billion annually to state and local governments, academia, not-for-profits and other organizations.

The apply-for-grants feature, which includes a simple application for all grants, went live Oct. 31 following a pilot that included 20 agencies and 100 grant applicants.

The site provides a single source for finding grant opportunities in a standard manner and security when applying for those grants online. Organizations may also receive e-mail notification of grants.

Five agencies to date have posted grant application packages on Grants.gov. The site received its first submitted application today from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences for a grant from the Commerce Department, said Charles Havekost, Grants.gov program manager. Agencies have the ability to post a grant application package and start receiving applications the same day, he said.

“By putting relevant information in one place, we’re helping to level the playing field for organizations less familiar with federal grant programs so that they too can identify and apply for appropriate grants,” Thompson said.

Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for IT and e-government, said Grants.gov will transform the grants process. “Mining for federal funds is getting more challenging for many organizations,” Evans said.

Many organizations do not have the staff or the familiarity with the grants process to know to look for opportunities in federal domestic assistance sources, scan the Federal Register or search multiple government sites, she said. “Grants.gov helps make transactions for government funds cheaper, easier and more comprehensible,” Evans said.

Since October, Grants.gov has received 500,000 hits per week to find grant opportunities and 100,000 hits at the application feature, Havekost said. Over 300 organizations have expressed interest, set up a profile, or received user identifications and passwords, he said.

Like any new system, Grants.gov will take time to work out bugs. RESADM-L readers have probably noticed recent posting concerning varied success rates by universities attempting to file grant requests electronically.

Source: Mary Mosquera, HHS Launches Grants.gov, Government Computer News, Dec. 9, 2003.

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(7) Recalls.gov

Just in time for the holiday gift-buying season, six agencies have unveiled a Web portal listing recalled consumer products.

The site, Recalls.gov, provides not only the recalled household items listed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission but also data on recalled motor vehicles, recreational boats, food, medicines, cosmetics and pesticides.

CPSC has owned the www.recalls.gov URL for some time but had not used it until the launch of the portal, commission spokeswoman Nychelle Fleming said.

The home page features a series of tabs organized by product type. The pages linked to each tab contain links to lists of product recalls and to the home page of the agency responsible for regulating those products.

The subpages also feature a link, marked with a red arrow, that tells consumers how to report problems to agencies.

The regulatory agencies that are CPSC’s partners on the portal—the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Food Safety Inspection Service and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—are responsible for updating their own recall lists, Fleming said.

The General Services Administration team that manages the FirstGov portal operates Recalls.gov in conjunction with the CPSC webmaster.

Twenty retailers, trade groups and consumer advocacy organizations have signed on as partners. Their responsibility is to promote Recalls.gov through in-store signs, Web pages and other methods, Fleming said.

Source: Patricia Daukantas, Agencies launch one-stop portal for product recalls, Government Computer News, November 25, 2003.

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(8) GovBenefits.gov Now Covers State Resources

With the relaunch of the Govbenefits.gov portal on November 10th, the Labor Department took a huge step toward integrating federal and state programs, officials said.

Patrick Pizzella, assistant secretary for administration and management and Labor CIO, said the department has taken concrete actions to providing “a single place for both federal and state benefit program information.”

Labor added 48 benefit programs from 20 states, including Medicaid, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and children’s health insurance programs.

Along with the new programs, Labor officials redesigned the site’s home page with expanded search capabilities for federal and state information. Officials also streamlined their questionnaire so users have to answer few questions and see what they qualify for as they fill out the survey.

Labor originally launched GovBenefits with 55 federal programs in May 2002. (Click for May 6, 2002, GCN story)

Source: Jason Miller, Labor adds 48 state programs to GovBenefits portal, Government Computer News, November 10, 2003.

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(9) White House Web Scrubbing

It's not quite Soviet-style airbrushing, but the Bush administration has been using cyberspace to make some of its own cosmetic touch-ups to history.

White House officials were steamed when Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said earlier this year that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion to reconstruct Iraq -- which turned out to be a gross understatement of the tens of billions of dollars the government now expects to spend.

Recently, however, the government has purged the offending comments by Natsios from the agency's Web site. The transcript, and links to it, have vanished.

This is not the first time the administration has done some creative editing of government Web sites. After the insurrection in Iraq proved more stubborn than expected, the White House edited the original headline on its Web site of President Bush's May 1 speech, "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended," to insert the word "Major" before combat.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, administration Web sites have been scrubbed for anything vaguely sensitive, and passwords are now required to access even much unclassified information. Though it is not clear whether the White House is directing the changes, several agencies have been following a similar pattern. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID have removed or revised fact sheets on condoms, excising information about their effectiveness in disease prevention, and promoting abstinence instead. The National Cancer Institute, meanwhile, scrapped claims on its Web site that there was no association between abortion and breast cancer. And the Justice Department recently redacted criticism of the department in a consultant's report that had been posted on its Web site.

Steven Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the Natsios case is particularly pernicious. "This smells like an attempt to revise the record, not just to withhold information but to alter the historical record in a self-interested way, and that is sleazier than usual," he said. "If they simply said, 'We made an error; we underestimated,' people could understand it and deal with it."

Source: For the full article, see Dana Milbank, "White House Web Scrubbing : Offending Comments on Iraq Disappear From Site", Washington Post, December 18, 2003, Page A05. Alan Zoellner, Government Information Librarian, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8794; GOVDOC-L, December 18, 2003.

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(10) The Numbers Racket

Abstract: This article by Barbara Quint explains how GPO Access' free business model is causing the Government Printing Office to lose revenue.

In October, Bruce James, the Public Printer and head of the U.S. Government Printing Office, told a meeting of federal depository librarians that the GPO Access service does not have a sustainable business model and that GPO needs to "create a business model that will once again allow us to bring revenue in the door."

GPO Access is probably the federal government's greatest success on the Web. As currently constituted, it's a vital source of information and a revolutionary improvement in the delivery of government information to the American public. But it's also a model of commitment to the right way to handle that information. It doesn't skimp on what it offers, including most of its best-known and even bulkiest titles. Most important, it has a standing and publicly announced policy that any publication it carries -— and they now number in the hundreds of thousands -— will be carried forever. GPO Access is a true archive, a repository for the ages, a "Web site of record." It has earned its more than 37 million uses a month.

Further inquiries determined that James' remark, while possibly a trial balloon, was at least not a trial announcement. According to a respected spokesperson, GPO executives worried that the rising use of GPO Access to supply electronic versions of government publications had led to declining revenues from the GPO sales department. The spokesperson indicated that James wants GPO and the library and information communities to work together to come up with a feasible business model that might help the organization recover revenue.

Actually, in a Searcher magazine interview, James said he "wouldn't be surprised if in 5 years the government is delivering 95 percent of documents only in digital form." Far be it from me to underestimate librarians (loyal to my profession as I am), but it does stretch credulity a bit to imagine that we would be able to come up with a business model that can recover all but 5 percent of the GPO's sales revenues in 5 years' time. At least any model that would also protect the public's right to know.

GPO arrived at its for-free policy through experience. Originally, it did try to set up payment mechanisms, both subscription and per-document. However, a law (PL103-40) required GPO not to charge depository libraries. As one might have predicted, those libraries started reproducing and redelivering GPO Access content and building mirror sites -— all available for free on the open Web. In 1995, GPO decided to go with the flow and opened its service to free access.

Since they lack copyright protection, government documents are the most public of public-domain material. Even if GPO did return to some payment mechanism, you could envision libraries continuing to redistribute. Library vendors might even help, perhaps by offering a service attached to their existing ones that supplied a cheap or free "federal depository" collection.

GPO's problems could soon get bigger. A new arrangement hammered out of a fight with the Office of Management and Budget should substantially increase the flow of electronic government documents. All printers working with federal executive branch agencies must supply GPO with electronic copies of reports (and at least two print copies for cataloging). No electronic copies, no checks. With this new enforcement mechanism and a prospective closing of in-house printing plants, GPO expects a sharp drop in "fugitive" documents and a sharp rise in government documents available for public access.

So why shouldn't the American public simply enjoy this tremendous increase in service from the federal government as each computer and Internet connection turns every user into a federal depository library? Our tax dollars at work—finally!

Well, as Benjamin Disraeli, the famed 19th-century British prime minister, said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." The multi-administration battle between the OMB and GPO over the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of centralized printing saw statistics hurled like grenades. Boom! You lose $$$! Bam! We save $$$! Frankly, if GPO ends up establishing business models based on replacing revenue from the sales department, the war for public access may already be lost.

If I were Mr. James, I would reconsider even collecting such dangerous statistics. Instead, I would brandish those 37 million hits a month—not one of which caused a single GPO (or GPO contractor's) printing device a single drop of ink. GPO Access has not only expanded the delivery of federal documents exponentially, it has also transferred the physical printing (when necessary) of those documents to the public's own computer printers.

Instead, if I were Mr. James, I'd collect every statistic in existence on the cost of producing and disseminating information for every federal agency and add in projected increases. And when anyone attacked my operation, I'd stand and fight on that statistical barricade and no other.

The bottom line is that the people own the government. The people pay for the government. The people own the information the government collects and the documents it produces. The government owes the people what they have paid for. The Web now reaches into the homes and offices of most Americans. No matter what statistics anyone throws out, the Web is the bargain of the millennium. But even if it weren't, it would remain the best way for the government to do its duty—i.e., to supply citizens with the information they own. All measurements of success and failure should be made against that macro-statistic.

Source: Barbara Quint, The Numbers Racket, Information Today, Vol. 20, No. 11, December 2003.

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(11) ERIC Reengineering Plan Underway

December 11, 2003: Submitters are asked to "cease sending...publications to the ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology, Syracuse University, 621 Skytop Road, Suite 160, Syracuse, NY 13244-5290 as we will cease to operate as of Dec. 31, 2003."

"In January 2004, the Department of Education will begin to implement a reengineering plan for ERIC. The new ERIC mission continues the core function of providing a centralized bibliographic database of journal articles and other published and unpublished education materials. It enhances the database by adding free full text and electronic links to commercial sources and by making it easy to use and up to date."

"Beginning in January and until the new ERIC model for acquiring education literature is developed later in 2004, no new materials will be received and accepted for the database. However, the ERIC database will continue to grow, as thousands of documents selected by the ERIC clearinghouses throughout 2003 will be added. When the new model is ready later in 2004, the new ERIC contractor will communicate with publishers, education organizations, and other database contributors to add publications and materials released from January 2004 forward."

"Please see the URL http://www.eric.ed.gov to stay up-to-date about the ERIC transition to a new contractor and model."

Source: Monica Todeschini, Department of Education will begin to implement a reengineering plan for ERIC, D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 12, December 2003.

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(12) Judith C. Russell on the Future of Depository Systems

First, with respect to the elimination of microfiche as the contracts expire, the intention is to locate or create digital copies of random paper documents that arrive "over the transom" without sufficient copies for distribution or show up on agency printing requests. We used to generate microfiche for many of those titles. Duncan correctly quoted my remarks: "Where we cannot find an electronic equivalent, GPO will digitize documents to create searchable electronic files for access and preservation." We intend to continue to produce and disseminate microfiche sets for major series/serials such as the Congressional Record, Federal Register, CFR, etc. Those items already have electronic equivalents on GPO Access, but because of their value to the community, we continue to distribute them in tangible form, often offering the choice among electronic, microfiche and print versions.

Second, we are routinely getting and retaining a minimum of two paper copies of every title that we have an opportunity to "ride," whether or not it is being distributed to depository libraries in paper. This will give us two "copies of last resort" so GPO can, if necessary, create a new digital copy in the future if the electronic copy can no longer be used due to changes in technology or other problems. We have also begun discussing whether we should be printing copies of born digital items (when the format is suitable) for the same purpose. We may expand the number of paper copies at some future time, but this does provide the bare minimum number of copies necessary to safeguard the content while GPO, the publishing agencies and the library community develop plans to ensure electronic preservation.

Thirdly, as part of our agreement with the National Archives (which was mentioned in several messages), GPO will transfer to NARA for preservation any titles removed from the FDLP for reasons of national or homeland security. NARA will retain the titles until such time as they can once again be made available for public access, at which time they will be returned to GPO and we will once again offer public access through the FDLP. This is the best compromise that we could reach given the current sensitivity about homeland security, but it does at least ensure that the content is not lost to the program forever, and NARA clearly has a track record for preserving restricted information for various time periods and then releasing it for public access.

Finally, I can assure you that GPO is strongly committed to preservation and permanent public access for the materials in its care. The three technology issues that the Public Printer, Bruce James, has consistently put at the forefront of our fact gathering and planning efforts are authentication, version control and preservation/public access. We are spending a lot of time researching all three issues with technology leaders in industry and academia. We are very much aware that "we don't know what we don't know" about the technologies that will evolve and therefore, as a community, we must follow multiple paths and set up safety nets, like the two print copies, to protect us against the unknown technological challenges that we will face.

Susan Lyons is quite right in saying "The hearings, reports and other documents on the shelves of 1250 libraries can weather the budgetary and political storms of Washington. Their fragile electronic cousins may not be so robust." The current distributed system does protect the material against the vagaries of Federal funding and other man-made or natural disasters. However, many of our depository libraries are also experiencing severe budget cuts. Many of the libraries that approach me about digitization of the legacy collection are as motivated by the desire to free up space and reduce costs as they are by the goal of improved public access and preservation. We need to work together to create a stable, balanced system, with sufficient redundancy in both tangible and electronic formats to protect the content for the future and make it widely available for current use. That is the primary objective of the ongoing dialog between GPO and the library community that I have been engaged in for the past year and expect to be engaged in for the foreseeable future.

I have said this many times in the past few months, but it bears repeating: GPO is not going to redesign the Federal Depository Library Program here in Washington and impose a new structure on the depository library community. GPO administers the program on behalf of the participating libraries and the public we jointly serve. That community - with help from each of you - must drive the decisions about what the program should be in the future. We cannot do it without you - and, even if we could, we do not want to, or intend to, do it without you.

To do this well, we must "get out of the box" and take a fresh look at the mission we share and determine the best means to accomplish it. We should not limit ourselves to incremental changes to the current system, but seek a new vision, which respects the foundation of the current program, but is not constrained by it, and that takes optimum advantage of the enormous volume electronic resources that are, and will become, available.

This exchange of messages has been one of the best "conversations" on the issues that we are facing that I have seen on any of the lists I monitor. I very much appreciate the thought that went into each of your comments, and I urge you to continue the dialog -- to continue to challenge one another and GPO -- so that we all look carefully at the issues and come up with the best possible solutions.

I firmly believe that together we can redefine the FDLP and strengthen it so that it continues to serve the American people for the next 100 years as well as it has for nearly 200 years. I look forward to working with you to accomplish that.

Thank you so much for your strong commitment to this program and to public access to government information. You all are great!

Judith C. Russell (jrussell@gpo.gov)
Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office
Phone: 202-512-0571
Fax: 202-512-1434

Source: GOVDOC-L, January 26, 2004

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(13) Bush Creates Commission on Space Exploration

With the signing of an Executive Order, President Bush has created an official commission dedicated to formulating America's future space exploration activities.

Under the order signed by Bush on Jan. 30, 2004, the Presidents Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy is charged with making recommendations concerning implementation of the Bush Administration's new vision for space exploration, including establishment of a scientific colony on the Moon and manned missions to Mars.

Specifically, the Commission is to make recommendations to the President regarding:

The Commission will conduct several of its meetings at various locations throughout the United States, to solicit views and opinions from the public, academia, and private industry.

Source: Robert Longley, U.S. Gov Info/Resources, In the spotlight, Feb. 5, 2004.

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