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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn targets obscure agency that sells reports public can get for free

Coburn, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine co-sponsor of legislation called the Let Me Google That For You Act to eliminate agency that loses money selling reports, including ones written by Coburn that are posted for free on the senator’s website.
by Chris Casteel Published: April 3, 2014

— In late 2012, Sen. Tom Coburn released a report about Pentagon programs called “Department of Everything.”

That report is readily available on the senator’s website to read or download for free. Or you could pay an obscure federal agency $48 for it.

That agency, the National Technical Information Service, which is part of the Department of Commerce, sells other Coburn reports, including his annual Wastebooks. However, it doesn’t offer his Wastebook from this year, which cites the agency as an example of wasteful government spending.

On Thursday, Coburn went a step further than criticizing the agency by offering legislation — the Let Me Google That For You Act — with three other lawmakers to eliminate it. The Muskogee Republican said most of the reports sold by the agency could be obtained for free with an Internet search.

“Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own,” Coburn said. “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.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Only the federal government would attempt to sell what you can get for free, make no money, then subsidize the failure.”

The agency — which did not respond Thursday to a request for comment on the legislation — was included last year in a Government Accountability Office report on duplication in the federal government.

The GAO — Congress’ auditing arm — said 74 percent of the reports added to the NTIS repository from 1990 through 2011 were “readily available from other public sources.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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