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Federal agency sells reports on government waste that are available online for free

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,Commerce,Tom Coburn,Claire McCaskill

A federal agency loses money trying to sell reports on government waste that are available online for free, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., pointed out as he offered a bipartisan bill to eliminate the Commerce Department program.

“This is the ‘let me Google that for you' office of the federal government,” Coburn said of the National Technical Information Service. "NTIS is selling at least six of the oversight reports issued by my office, such as the annual 'Wastebook' which details outrageous Washington spending and mismanagement. Ironically, the latest edition of 'Wastebook' -- which lists NTIS as one of the most wasteful government offices -- is not available for sale yet by NTIS.”

Taxpayers who don't want to download one of Coburn's reports on government waste for free can buy the 2011 edition in print from NTIS for $48. The 2010 edition is available for the same price. Coburn's report on subsidies for the wealthy, released for free in 2011, costs $33. They'll have to wait at least two weeks to receive the report, though — at least, that's what NTIS told Coburn's staff when they asked how long it would take to have one of their reports delivered to them.

Coburn asked NTIS director Bruce Borzino to stop charging people for Coburn's reports on government waste in a letter emailed Wednesday. The Washington Examiner called Borzino for comment, but he was unavailable as of press time.

NTIS has lost more than $1 million over the last 11 years, according to Coburn's office. “I find it staggering that the agency is selling government reports both to the public and to other federal agencies that are widely available for free and easy to find with a simple Google search — and the agency is still losing money," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a co-sponsor of the Senate bill. "This is a government office performing a function that the advent of the Internet has made outdated, and it’s past time we eliminate it.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced a companion version of the Let Me Google That For You Act in the House.

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