A little-known branch of the Commerce Department faces elimination, thanks to advances in technology and a snarkily named bill from Sens. Tom Coburn and Claire McCaskill.
The National Technical Information Service compiles federal reports, serving as a clearinghouse for the government’s scientific, technical, and business documents. The NTIS then sells copies of the documents to other agencies and the public upon request. It’s done so since 1950.
But Coburn and McCaskill say it’s hard to justify 150 employees and $66 million in taxpayer dollars when almost all of those documents are now available online for free.
Enter the Let Me Google That for You Act.
“Our goal is to eliminate you as an agency,” the famously grumpy Coburn told NTIS Director Bruce Borzino at a Wednesday hearing. Pulling no punches, Coburn suggested that any NTIS documents not already available to the public be put “in a small closet in the Department of Commerce.”
Borzino countered that his agency still serves an important purpose. “As the amount of data generated by the federal government grows, so does the challenge of ensuring its continued access and permanent availability,” he testified. “This is a function unique to NTIS.”
He noted instances in which NTIS had helped other agencies stockpile information to help with specific projects, and he emphasized its role in electronically storing documents some agencies are unable to host on their own websites. He also noted the NTIS expects to bring in $88 million in revenue from other government agencies this year.
To Coburn and McCaskill, though, that’s more wasted money. In addition to the costs of staffing NTIS, taxpayers then get charged again when other agencies pay for its information. And that’s not the only redundancy the senators see.
“We can’t find any IT services you offer that [the General Services Administration] doesn’t offer,” McCaskill said. “You’re more expensive than GSA.”
“No, we’re not,” said Borzino.
“Yes,” McCaskill replied, “you are.”
She continued: “This is not personal. This is about duplication. This is about charging taxpayers for something that they can get for free.”
Borzino maintained that his agency still has value. “We’re trying to provide a service within our capabilities,” he said. “We’re doing a good job.”
Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office has asked NTIS to stop selling its reports, as that agency posts them on its own site for free.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.
Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.