NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Agency May Be Closed

August 17, 1999

It is a rare event when a federal operation is shut down and its employees disbanded, but that may be the fate of the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service -- if Congress approves.

  • Commerce says the 250-employee service -- which resells government documents and reports -- is no longer needed because there is a wealth of free information on the Internet.
  • For example, the Commerce Department's recent report, "The Emerging Digital Economy II," is available free on the department's Web site -- but costs $27 if requested from the agency.
  • The agency was turned into a self-sustaining operation during the Reagan administration -- meaning it had to support itself through its sales.
  • But the agency has not operated profitably since 1993 -- and from 1995 to 1998 registered more than $5 million in operating losses.

The service had announced plans three months ago to begin a fee- based Internet search operation designed to more easily help people find and buy the government documents it sells. But the Clinton administration nixed that plan on the same day it was announced.

The plan would have consisted of a joint venture with Northern Light Technology, an Internet database company in Cambridge, Mass. After the plan was killed, the company began operating the service on its own.

Commerce will ask Congress to close the service and transfer its articless to the Library of Congress.

Source: Jeri Clausing, "Commerce Department Seeks to Close Government Information Service," New York Times, August 17, 1999.


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