A federal agency selling government reports that are otherwise free is the target of a new bill meant to curtail government waste.
“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,” said Senator Tom Coburn (R–Okla.), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Senator Claire McCaskill (D–Mo.), in conjunction with Representative Jim Bridenstine (R–Okla.) and Representative Henry Cuellar (D–Texas).
Introduced earlier this month, the Let Me Google That For You Act notes that NTIS is “tasked with collecting and distributing government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information and reports” despite losing “about $1.3 million over the last 11 years on its products.”
GAO investigations revealed that NTIS “sold only 8 percent of the 2,500,000 reports in its collection between 1995 and 2000.”
Between 1990 and 2011, about 74 percent of its reports “were readily available from other public sources,” and 95 percent of those “were available free of charge.”
Coburn sent a letter to NTIS requesting that publications such as his own Wastebook—an annual publication about wasteful federal spending—be made available for free. NTIS offers the 2011 copy for $48.
The new bill, which calls for the termination of NTIS operations, is currently being considered in committee.
According to Bridenstine, “Only the Federal Government would attempt to sell what you can get for free, make no money, then subsidize the failure.”
“President Ronald Reagan said that ‘the closest thing to eternal life is a government program.’ The NTIS sadly confirms this conclusion,” stated Heritage fellow Romina Boccia, noting that the GAO’s 2014 report on duplication and overlap once again highlights NTIS.
“The bill would direct the Department of Commerce to move any critical NTIS functions that are not related to its outdated research dissemination model into another office within the department,” Boccia explained. “This approach would eliminate waste and sensibly consolidate other functions thereby avoiding needless duplication.”