oversight

Subscriptions and News Clippings: Expenditures and Related Information Reported by Federal Organizations

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-06-27.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to the Chairmen, Committee on
                Appropriations and Committee on
                Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate


June 1997
                SUBSCRIPTIONS AND
                NEWS CLIPPINGS
                Expenditures and
                Related Information
                Reported by Federal
                Organizations




GAO/GGD-97-99
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      General Government Division

      B-272705

      June 27, 1997

      The Honorable Ted Stevens
      Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
      United States Senate

      The Honorable Fred Thompson
      Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs
      United States Senate

      Federal departments and agencies subscribe to newspapers, magazines,
      periodicals, and automated news services to enable their employees to
      keep informed of current developments relating to the activities of their
      organizations. As another method of keeping these employees informed of
      such developments, many departments and agencies also produce news
      clippings products.1 This report responds to your request for information
      on executive branch expenditures2 for both subscriptions and news
      clippings operations in fiscal year 1996.

      As agreed with your offices, this report also provides department and
      agency information on (1) the number of subscription copies of selected
      major newspapers that are normally used to prepare news clippings
      products, (2) the employee benefits reported from subscriptions and news
      clippings products, (3) whether guidance is provided to employees about
      procuring subscriptions and producing and distributing news clippings
      products, and (4) whether the departments and agencies have made or
      plan to make changes to improve their subscriptions procurement
      processes and news clippings operations.

      To obtain the requested information, we sent data collection forms to 14
      executive branch departments and 29 of the independent agencies that
      had 500 employees or more (hereafter referred to as federal
      organizations). As agreed, however, because of the broad scope and
      relatively short timeframe for completing our review, we did not
      independently verify the accuracy of the information provided. We also did
      not validate the benefits reported by the federal organizations. The data
      provided by the federal organizations ranged from actual expenditures to
      estimates that were based on only a few of the organizational components.

      1
       News clippings products are generally prepared by government employees’ cutting out articles of
      particular interest to their organization, which are then reproduced and disseminated to others in the
      organization. News clippings products may also be obtained by contracting out for this service.
      2
       Expenditures for subscriptions include payments for newspapers, magazines, periodicals, and
      automated news services. Expenditures for news clippings operations include the following elements:
      personnel, subscriptions, duplication/copying, distribution, and contracted services.



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                   Furthermore, one federal organization3 did not respond to our survey.
                   Also, two federal organizations4 provided 1995 data because they were
                   included as a part of our survey pretest before 1996 data were available,
                   but we included these organizations in our analysis.

                   Our work was conducted in Washington, D.C., from May 1996 to May 1997,
                   in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
                   Appendix I is a more detailed discussion of our objectives, scope, and
                   methodology.

                   On May 2, 1997, we requested comments on a draft of this report from the
                   Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On June 19, 1997,
                   OMB’s Acting Associate Director for Administration told us OMB had no
                   comments on the draft report.


                   For fiscal year 1996, 42 federal organizations reported estimated
Results in Brief   expenditures of about $73 million for subscriptions to newspapers,
                   magazines, periodicals, and automated news services and about $8 million
                   for news clippings operations. Although federal organizations provided us
                   with these expenditure data, it should be emphasized that some of these
                   data are estimates only. Federal organizations do not typically account for
                   these expenditures separately from other types of expenditures, and some
                   reporting officials told us they had difficulty making accurate estimates.

                   Federal organizations reported procuring multiple copies of major
                   newspapers, such as The Washington Post, that are normally used to
                   prepare news clippings products. While a few federal organizations
                   reported procuring 1 or 2 copies of these major newspapers, other
                   organizations reported procuring over 200 copies of 1 or more of the
                   newspapers.

                   Federal organizations generally reported that subscriptions and news
                   clippings products benefit their employees and increase productivity.
                   Federal organizations cited several examples of these benefits, such as
                   providing employees with current information, being a valuable research
                   tool, providing leads for starting agency investigations, supporting their
                   organizations’ mission of providing services to citizens, and providing
                   senior staff with information to respond to inquiries by reporters about
                   recent events.


                   3
                    As of May 30, 1997, the Department of State had not responded to our request for information.
                   4
                    The Departments of Commerce and Transportation provided fiscal year 1995 data.


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             The procurement of subscriptions by executive agencies, like the
             acquisition of other services, is covered under the Federal Acquisition
             Regulation (FAR).5 Twenty-eight of the federal organizations responding to
             our survey, or at least 1 of their components, reported having guidance for
             procuring subscriptions. Twenty-two of the 28 federal organizations
             reported providing organization-specific guidance, such as requiring
             management approval to ensure that the subscriptions are mission-related.
             Furthermore, 24 federal organizations, or at least 1 of their components,
             reported having guidance on how news clippings products should be
             produced and distributed in the organization, such as sending the news
             clippings products only to high-level officials.

             Several federal organizations noted recent or planned actions to improve
             their subscriptions procurement processes or preparation of their news
             clippings products. These actions included reducing overall spending on
             subscriptions, centralizing the subscription process, eliminating
             subscriptions to electronic wire services in favor of available Internet
             services, and changing news clippings products from paper copies to the
             electronic media.


             As a means of disseminating information to their employees, most federal
Background   organizations expend funds on subscriptions to newspapers, magazines,
             and periodicals and often to automated news services. Most federal
             organizations use a portion of their subscriptions to prepare news
             clippings products for distribution to their employees. The subscriptions
             reported by the federal organizations showed a variety of business,
             scientific and technical, and government publications that pertain
             specifically to their organizations’ missions, while other publications are
             more general in nature. For example, business publications procured by
             the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) included the American
             Banker and Business Week, scientific and technical publications procured
             by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) included
             Space News and Robotics World, government publications procured by
             the Smithsonian Institution included the Congressional Yellow Book and
             the Federal Staff Directory, and general publications procured by the
             Department of the Air Force included Quality Management and a variety of
             local newspapers.



             5
              FAR Subpart 2.1 defines an executive agency as (1) an executive department, military department, or
             any independent establishment as stated or defined in 5 U.S.C. 101, 102, and 104(1), and (2) any wholly
             owned government corporation listed in 31 U.S.C. 9101.



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                     OMB has responsibility for oversight of executive branch expenditures, but
                     federal organizations are not required to specifically identify subscriptions
                     expenditures as a part of their appropriations requests. However, federal
                     organizations are authorized to spend appropriated funds to procure
                     subscriptions to assist in performing their missions.6 The FAR provides
                     federal organizations with uniform policies and procedures for acquiring
                     goods and services, which include the procurement of subscriptions.


                     For fiscal year 1996,7 federal organizations responding to our survey
Responding Federal   reported estimated expenditures of $73.3 million on subscriptions to
Organizations        newspapers, magazines, periodicals, and automated news services and
Reported Estimated   $7.7 million for news clippings operations. These two totals should not be
                     combined because some of the subscription expenditures were also
Expenditures for     included as expenditures for news clippings products.
Subscriptions and
                     Furthermore, the nature of the data received from the federal
News Clippings       organizations varied greatly, ranging from actual expenditures to estimates
Operations           of a sample of organizational components. Many federal organizations
                     indicated that their figures were estimates because expenditure totals for
                     subscriptions and/or news clippings operations were not readily available.
                     Some federal organizations, such as the Department of Justice and NASA,
                     told us that these expenditures do not have an object class in the budget
                     and are often decentralized within the federal organizations. Also, some
                     federal organizations, such as the Department of Health and Human
                     Services and the General Services Administration (GSA), said that their
                     employees use credit cards to purchase subscriptions, which makes
                     tracking expenditures even more difficult because subscriptions cannot
                     easily be distinguished from other types of purchases.

                     As of May 30, 1997, we had received responses from 42 of the 43 federal
                     organizations we surveyed. The Department of State did not respond to
                     our survey. When reporting its expenditures, the Executive Office of the
                     President only provided information for its two components with the most
                     employees—the White House and OMB. Also, GSA provided information
                     only on a sample of its components, and the results of that sample could



                     6
                      Under 31 U.S.C. 3324 (d)(2), agencies are expressly authorized to use appropriated funds to purchase
                     subscriptions without violating the advance payment prohibition set forth in this section.
                     7
                      The Departments of Transportation and Commerce provided fiscal year 1995 expenditures because
                     these federal organizations were a part of our pretest, which was done before fiscal year 1996 figures
                     were available.



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                                    not be projected to the entire agency; therefore, GSA’s reported
                                    expenditures are understated.

                                    Table 1 shows the 43 federal organizations that we surveyed and their
                                    reported expenditures for subscriptions and news clippings operations for
                                    fiscal year 1996.

Table 1: Expenditures Reported by
Federal Organizations for           Dollars in thousands
Subscriptions and News Clippings                                                       Fiscal year 1996 expenditures
Operations, Fiscal Year 1996
                                                                                                          News clippings
                                    Federal organization                                Subscriptions        operations
                                    Agency for International Development                       $400.7               $65.2
                                    Armed Forces Retirement Home                                  30.6                  0
                                    Commodity Futures Trading Commission                        415.8               153.4
                                    Corporation for National Service                               6.0               16.9
                                    Department of Agriculture                                  8,066.9              664.8
                                    Department of Commercea                                     500.2               380.8
                                    Department of Defense                                      4,690.9              922.9
                                    Department of Education                                     826.4               318.6
                                    Department of Energy                                     13,387.8               524.7
                                    Department of Health and Human Services                    9,455.0              295.4
                                    Department of Housing and Urban
                                    Development                                                1,202.3              194.3
                                    Department of the Interior                                 4,238.6              263.3
                                    Department of Justice                                      7,714.1              517.7
                                    Department of Labor                                        1,067.4              346.7
                                                                                                      b                  b
                                    Department of State
                                                                 a
                                    Department of Transportation                                  67.0              221.9
                                    Department of the Treasury                                 6,099.0              376.3
                                    Department of Veterans Affairs                              312.6                98.0
                                    Environmental Protection Agency                            1,577.2              282.5
                                    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission                       50.9               25.0
                                                                       c
                                    Executive Office of the President                           365.9               201.0
                                    Federal Communications Commission                           262.0                79.7
                                    Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation                       936.5                46.0
                                    Federal Emergency Management Agency                           87.0               61.3
                                    Federal Reserve System                                      723.7                  1.5
                                    Federal Trade Commission                                    418.3                42.5
                                    General Services Administrationd                              79.8               57.8
                                    National Aeronautics and Space Administration              2,749.5              115.9
                                                                                                               (continued)


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                     Dollars in thousands
                                                                                  Fiscal year 1996 expenditures
                                                                                                     News clippings
                     Federal organization                                         Subscriptions         operations
                     National Archives and Records Administration                          93.0                    25.3
                     National Credit Union Administration                                  37.5                       4.5
                     National Labor Relations Board                                       194.7                    42.0
                     National Science Foundation                                          101.2                    44.9
                     Nuclear Regulatory Commission                                        423.4                   144.5
                     Office of Personnel Management                                       170.9                    52.8
                     Peace Corps                                                          314.7                       8.0
                     Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation                                 183.4                    70.3
                     Railroad Retirement Board                                             49.2                        0
                     Securities and Exchange Commission                                  1,458.1                  142.7
                     Small Business Administration                                         75.0                    19.0
                     Smithsonian Institution                                              789.0                    48.1
                     Social Security Administration                                       782.7                   230.0
                     Tennessee Valley Authority                                           345.2                    63.7
                     United States Information Agency                                    2,589.9                  539.3
                     Total                                                            $73,340.0              $7,709.4e

                     Note: The totals for subscriptions and news clippings should not be added together because
                     some of the subscriptions expenditures are also included as news clippings expenditures.
                     a
                     The Departments of Commerce and Transportation provided fiscal year 1995 data.
                     b
                         The Department of State did not respond to our survey.
                     c
                     The Executive Office of the President reported data only for the White House and OMB.
                     d
                      GSA provided data for only a sample of components; therefore, the results cannot be projected
                     to the entire agency.
                     e
                     Total does not add due to rounding.

                     Source: Federal organization responses to the GAO survey.




                     Federal organizations responding to our survey reported receiving
Responding Federal   multiple copies of the same newspapers that were used to produce news
Organizations        clippings products. These subscription copies were generally provided to
Reported Procuring   the federal organization’s management officials with some copies of the
                     newspapers going to the organization’s libraries and other centralized
Multiple Copies of   locations. We specifically looked at federal organizations’ subscriptions to
Some Newspapers      three major newspapers (The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post,



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                                          and The New York Times) since these newspapers were almost always
                                          used by federal organizations in their news clippings operations.

                                          Table 2 shows the number of copies of these newspapers that we were
                                          able to identify from the data each federal organization provided for fiscal
                                          year 1996. These newspapers usually made up only a small portion of a
                                          federal organization’s subscriptions because most of the subscriptions
                                          were for periodicals that appeared to be either mission-related (such as
                                          professional and technical journals) or more general in nature. For
                                          example, at the Department of Energy’s headquarters technical library,
                                          only about $39,000 (or 4 percent) of its $970,000 in total reported
                                          expenditures on subscriptions was for the newspapers it procured in fiscal
                                          year 1996.


Table 2: Estimated Number of Copies of Selected Newspapers Procured by Federal Organizations, Fiscal Year 1996
                                                                               Number of procured newspaper copies
                                                                               The Wall            The
                                                                                 Street     Washington          The New
Federal organization                                                            Journal           Post        York Times
Agency for International Development                                                 19                4                6
Armed Forces Retirement Home                                                          3                2                1
Commodity Futures Trading Commission                                                 25               13               10
Corporation for National Service                                                      1                1                1
Department of Agriculture                                                            71               40               24
Department of Commercea                                                              91               39               58
Department of Defense                                                               126              121               55
Department of Education                                                              17               20               16
Department of Energy                                                                200               55               70
Department of Health and Human Services                                              45               67               72
Department of Housing and Urban Development                                          46               50               45
Department of the Interior                                                           31               34               23
Department of Justice                                                               231              151              192
Department of Labor                                                                  62               20               32
                                                                                        b                b               b
Department of State
                             a
Department of Transportation                                                         16               19               16
Department of the Treasury                                                          285               97              119
Department of Veterans Affairs                                                       17                2                3
Environmental Protection Agency                                                      39               47               33
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission                                               6                8                8
                                   c
Executive Office of the President                                                    64               76               70
                                                                                                               (continued)



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                                                                                                 Number of procured newspaper copies
                                                                                                   The Wall              The
                                                                                                     Street       Washington            The New
Federal organization                                                                                Journal             Post          York Times
Federal Communications Commission                                                                            13               7                      8
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation                                                                       399               1                      2
Federal Emergency Management Agency                                                                          5                6                      8
Federal Reserve System                                                                                      104              15                     63
Federal Trade Commission                                                                                     45              14                     10
General Services Administrationd                                                                             3                1                      0
National Aeronautics and Space Administration                                                                42              63                     45
National Archives and Records Administration                                                                 3                5                      3
National Credit Union Administration                                                                         0                0                      0
National Labor Relations Board                                                                               2                2                      2
National Science Foundation                                                                                  11               8                     13
Nuclear Regulatory Commission                                                                                24              18                     22
Office of Personnel Management                                                                               23              33                     20
Peace Corps                                                                                                  2                3                      3
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation                                                                         28               6                      5
Railroad Retirement Board                                                                                    8                1                      1
Securities and Exchange Commission                                                                           66              13                     31
Small Business Administration                                                                                32              18                     14
Smithsonian Institution                                                                                      10              14                     18
Social Security Administration                                                                               6               15                      4
Tennessee Valley Authority                                                                                   8                3                      5
United States Information Agency                                                                            304            470                  468
Total                                                                                                  2,533             1,582                1,599

                                               Note: Totals include subscriptions that were for daily (Monday through Friday) or more frequently;
                                               Sunday only, etc., subscriptions were not included.
                                               a
                                               The Departments of Commerce and Transportation provided fiscal year 1995 data.
                                               b
                                                   The Department of State did not respond to our survey.
                                               c
                                               The Executive Office of the President reported data only for the White House and OMB.
                                               d
                                                GSA provided data from only a sample of components; therefore, the results cannot be
                                               projected to the entire agency.

                                               Source: Federal organization responses to the GAO survey.




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                          In our survey, we asked federal organizations to describe any benefits to
Responding Federal        their employees of providing subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and
Organizations Cited       periodicals and producing their news clippings products. Federal
Benefits of               organizations that responded to this question generally said that
                          subscriptions and news clippings products help provide their employees
Subscriptions and         with information necessary to perform their jobs. However, some
News Clippings            organizations provided the following more specific benefits. For example:
Products              •   SEC estimated that approximately 16 percent of all active SEC investigations
                          began with a lead from the news media.
                      •   The Tennessee Valley Authority said that there is a compelling need for
                          timely information in the changing utility industry.
                      •   The Department of Education noted that news clippings products provide
                          senior staff with information to respond to inquiries by reporters about
                          recent events.
                      •   The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said that, in addition to
                          keeping its staff current, its news clippings products provide a valuable
                          research tool that is also used by other government agencies.
                      •   The National Science Foundation reported that its highly technical
                          employees would find it almost impossible to effectively carry out its
                          mission without access to the many specialized journals available through
                          subscriptions.
                      •   According to one of Energy’s laboratories, its subscriptions give
                          employees fast, convenient access to information contained in primarily
                          scientific and engineering professional journals that report research
                          findings.
                      •   The library at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported that
                          subscriptions provide employees with access to scientific and engineering
                          publications that are essential to Goddard’s role as NASA’s Lead Center for
                          Scientific Research.

                          According to some federal organizations, providing subscriptions to their
                          customers is a part of their missions. The Armed Forces Retirement Home
                          said that the vast majority of its subscriptions are provided for its
                          residents, not its employees. The Office of Personnel Management’s
                          Eastern Management Development Center noted that subscription copies
                          are used in its seminars and as reading references for training participants.
                          Also, several of the schools within the Department of the Interior’s Bureau
                          of Indian Affairs noted that newspapers, magazines, and periodicals are
                          used by their students as learning tools and by their teachers as
                          instructional tools.




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                        When responding to our survey, 28 federal organizations, or at least 1 of
Some Reporting          their components, reported that they had guidance for procuring
Federal Organizations   subscriptions.8 The procurement of subscriptions by executive agencies,
Had Guidance for        like the acquisition of other services, is covered under the FAR;9 however,
                        some federal organizations said that they also had their own specific
Obtaining               guidance in place. The following 28 organizations reported having
Subscriptions and       guidance:
Disseminating News      Department of Agriculture
Clippings Products      Department of Commerce
                        Department of Defense
                        Department of Education
                        Department of Energy
                        Department of Health and Human Services
                        Department of Housing and Urban Development
                        Department of the Interior
                        Department of Justice
                        Department of Labor
                        Department of the Treasury
                        Department of Veterans Affairs
                        Environmental Protection Agency
                        Executive Office of the President
                        Federal Communications Commission
                        Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
                        Federal Emergency Management Agency
                        Federal Trade Commission
                        General Services Administration
                        National Aeronautics and Space Administration
                        National Archives and Records Administration
                        National Labor Relations Board
                        Nuclear Regulatory Commission
                        Office of Personnel Management
                        Railroad Retirement Board
                        Smithsonian Institution
                        Social Security Administration
                        United States Information Agency




                        8
                        Some of these federal organizations used the term “guidance” to refer to the FAR. However, the FAR,
                        when applicable, is more than guidance because it has the force and effect of law.
                        9
                         The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve System are not covered by the
                        FAR.



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    Of the 28 federal organizations that reported having guidance, 3 referred to
    general guidance such as the FAR, and 3 indicated that they had unwritten
    guidance or provided no documentation of it. The remaining 22 federal
    organizations provided copies of their organization-specific detailed
    guidance. For example, several of the federal organizations provided the
    following information:

•   The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided a copy of its
    directive called the Periodical Subscription Management Program.10 This
    directive specifies that (1) subscriptions to periodicals for direct delivery
    to Commission offices are to be limited to those essential for the work of
    the office and (2) since employees in the Commission’s bureaus and
    offices have access to assorted publications and newspapers via electronic
    databases on their computers, general interest, academic, trade, and
    loose-leaf publications are not to be purchased if they are available
    on-line.
•   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in its manual on library services,11
    states that the library is to acquire primarily advanced books and journals
    containing information and data the Commission staff need to perform
    official functions. The library also is to obtain news-type publications
    describing recent events or developments of interest to Commission staff.
•   The Department of Labor has an internal manual section12 that addresses
    the specific numbers of copies of certain newspapers (such as The
    Washington Post) and magazines (such as Time and Newsweek) that can
    be purchased by officials at headquarters and in the regions. Purchases of
    these publications are limited because employees already have access to
    them through news clippings products prepared by the Office of
    Information and Public Affairs.

    Furthermore, 24 federal organizations, or at least 1 of their components,
    reported having organization-specific guidance for who is to receive
    copies of news clippings products. This guidance was usually not a
    formally written document. For example, the Social Security
    Administration reported that its guidance is set at the discretion of the
    Press Officer, and that currently news clippings products are distributed to
    Associate Commissioners and executive staff. The following federal
    organizations reported having news clippings guidance:



    10
      FCC Directive FCCINST 1103.1, January 29, 1996.
    11
      NRC Manual, Chapter NRC-0214, Library Services, September 27, 1982.
    12
      Department of Labor Manual, DLMS-2-1218, January 1983.



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                       Agency for International Development
                       Department of Agriculture
                       Department of Commerce
                       Department of Defense
                       Department of Health and Human Services
                       Department of Housing and Urban Development
                       Department of the Interior
                       Department of Justice
                       Department of Labor
                       Department of Veterans Affairs
                       Environmental Protection Agency
                       Executive Office of the President
                       Federal Communications Commission
                       Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
                       National Aeronautics and Space Administration
                       National Archives and Records Administration
                       National Credit Union Administration
                       National Science Foundation
                       Nuclear Regulatory Commission
                       Office of Personnel Management
                       Small Business Administration
                       Social Security Administration
                       Tennessee Valley Authority
                       United States Information Agency


                       Several federal organizations cited actions and/or plans to improve their
Responding Federal     subscriptions procurement process or their news clippings operations. For
Organizations Cited    example, two federal organizations specifically mentioned centralizing
Efforts to Improve     their subscriptions processes. As a result of centralizing its subscription
                       procurement process, the Federal Trade Commission reported having
Subscriptions          reduced duplication and increased sharing of resources by routing many
Procurement            publications and information to several staff members. The Federal
                       Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported having centralized its
Processes and News     subscriptions acquisition process for cost and labor savings. FDIC also said
Clippings Operations   its library has full-text stories on-line; contracts are pending to put other
                       stories on-line; and the library plans to examine its number of
                       subscriptions to printed newspapers.

                       The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it is planning to
                       eliminate its Associated Press newswire service, which costs $28,000, in
                       favor of the Internet services currently available from more than 55



                       Page 12                            GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
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newspapers. The National Labor Relations Board said that, beginning with
fiscal year 1997, its subscription to the Daily Labor report changed from
paper copies, which cost $176,820, to electronic copies, which will cost
$36,000, a savings of $140,820. The Railroad Retirement Board reported
that as a result of a major review of all subscriptions it has reduced its
spending on subscriptions by $30,000 (21 percent) since fiscal year 1994.

The Agency for International Development said that its labor costs for
news clippings products had declined and distribution had increased with
the use of on-line services. Paper copies of press clips are delivered to the
Administrator’s morning senior staff meeting only. Employees may visit
the press office and make their own copies; press clips are also available
daily via E-mail and agency intranet.

Several federal organizations, or one of their components, said they were
considering automating their news clippings operations in some manner
(e.g., to use local area networks, E-mail, or the Internet). These
organizations included the following: the Department of Education; the
Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health;
the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Securities and Exchange
Commission; the National Science Foundation; and the Corporation for
National Service.


We are sending copies of this report to the Director of the Office of
Management and Budget, the Secretaries of each executive department,
the head of each independent agency, and the Ranking Minority Members
of your Committees. Copies will be made available to others on request.

Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix II. If you have any
questions concerning this report, please call me on (202) 512-4232.




Bernard L. Ungar
Associate Director, Federal Management
  and Workforce Issues




Page 13                            GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


              As agreed with your offices, our objectives were to identify the following
              information on the executive branch departments and largest independent
              agencies: (1) the total expenditures for subscriptions to newspapers,
              magazines, and periodicals as well as automated news services for fiscal
              year 1996; (2) the total expenditures associated with news clippings
              operations for fiscal year 1996; (3) the number of subscriptions federal
              organizations received of selected major newspapers; (4) the benefits
              federal organizations said their employees receive from both subscriptions
              and news clippings products; (5) whether federal organizations provided
              guidance for the procurement of subscriptions and the production and
              distribution of news clippings products; and (6) any examples of changes
              federal organizations have made or plan to make to improve their
              subscriptions procurement processes and news clippings operations.

              We chose the 14 executive branch departments and 29 independent
              agencies that had 500 employees or more (according to Office of
              Personnel Management data of Jan. 1996) because these federal
              organizations were the most likely to have the largest share of
              expenditures for subscriptions and news clippings operations. We
              developed and pretested a data collection form to obtain this information
              from two federal organizations before sending the final version of the
              survey to the entire universe. Because of the number of federal
              organizations involved and the timeframe we were asking for their
              responses, we delivered the majority of our surveys by hand or by Express
              Mail on November 1, 1996.

              In our survey, we asked each federal organization for its fiscal year 1996
              expenditures and other related information for subscriptions and news
              clippings operations. We specifically asked that all federal organization
              components be included, even field offices. Our only exceptions on
              obtaining fiscal year 1996 expenditures were for the Departments of
              Commerce and Transportation. We pretested our survey at these two
              departments using fiscal year 1995 expenditures since the fiscal year 1996
              expenditures were not yet available. Because of the difficulty Commerce
              and Transportation had in obtaining this information, we did not request
              that they update their figures for fiscal year 1996. However, we did ask
              Commerce and Transportation officials if they believed that their fiscal
              year 1996 figures would be substantially different from their fiscal year
              1995 figures, and they said they did not.

              The federal organizations responded to our survey using a variety of
              formats and levels of completeness. For example, some federal



              Page 14                           GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




    organizations prepared detailed, consolidated lists of subscriptions by
    component, while other organizations submitted voluminous copies of
    individual procurement requests for subscriptions, with no
    organizationwide consolidation. Also, some federal organizations provided
    complete and detailed responses by component to all items in our survey,
    but others did not. For example, one department submitted information
    that was not tabulated accurately at either the component- or
    department-level. In this case, we obtained the department’s agreement
    with our tabulation of its information.

    Many federal organization responses required some follow-up. If we had
    questions about the submissions, we contacted organization officials for
    clarification. However, we did not independently verify the accuracy of the
    information provided. Some federal organizations noted that their figures
    were difficult to obtain and were estimates because (1) organizations had
    no separate budget line item for subscription purchases or news clippings
    operations, (2) decentralized operations made it difficult to collect such
    data, and (3) the use of credit cards for subscription purchases made it
    difficult to track those expenditures.

    To address our objectives, we processed the federal organizations’
    responses as follows:

•   For our expenditure totals for subscriptions and news clippings
    operations, we used the figures from the federal organization’s summary
    section. Even though a few subscriptions were for multiple years, we
    included the entire amount of expenditures if it was made in fiscal year
    1996.
•   From the listings of federal organization subscriptions, where possible, we
    counted the number of subscription copies each organization received of
    three selected major newspapers (The Wall Street Journal, The
    Washington Post, and The New York Times), which were also the
    newspapers that most of the organizations used in their news clippings
    operations. The federal organizations showed the subscriptions in a
    number of forms—e.g., daily (Monday through Friday) or more frequently
    or Sunday only. When tabulating our total number of subscription copies
    for a newspaper, we included only the subscriptions that were for daily or
    more frequent issues.
•   From narrative responses, we reviewed the benefits that federal
    organizations said they received from both subscriptions and news
    clippings products and used some of these responses as examples.




    Page 15                              GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




•   We reviewed the narrative responses for those federal organizations
    answering “yes” to our questions about whether they provided guidance to
    employees on procuring subscriptions and distributing news clippings
    products, and we used some of these responses as examples.
•   We reviewed the narrative responses for those agencies answering “yes” to
    our question about making or planning to make changes to their news
    clippings operations, and we used some of these responses as examples.
    Some federal organizations also cited improvements that they were
    making in their subscription procurement processes, and we used
    examples of these as well.




    Page 16                              GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
Appendix II

Major Contributors to This Report


                        James H. Burow, Assistant Director
General Government      Michael W. Jarvis, Evaluator-in-Charge
Division, Washington,   Warren Smith, Senior Evaluator
D.C.                    Thomas M. Beall, Social Science Analyst
                        Stuart M. Kaufman, Social Science Analyst
                        Vasiliki Theodoropoulos, Communications Analyst


                        Susan Michal-Smith, Senior Attorney
Office of the General
Counsel, Washington,
D.C.
                        Linda J. Libician, Senior Evaluator
Dallas Field Office     James W. Turkett, Senior Evaluator




(410040)                Page 17                          GAO/GGD-97-99 Subscriptions and News Clippings
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