- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 3, 2014

The agency that congressional watchdogs criticized for charging other agencies tens of millions of dollars to buy reports already freely available online is actually charging people to buy the very watchdog report that criticizes it for charging people.

The National Technical Information Service is also charging $48 a pop to buy several of Sen. Tom Coburn’s waste-watching reports that point out the same kinds of waste that he said NTIS represents.

An enraged Mr. Coburn and his allies on Thursday filed a bill to shut the report-selling agency down once and for all.

“This is the ‘let me google that for you’ office of the federal government,” said Mr. Coburn. “Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own.”

NTIS was established in 1950, when obtaining reports was more difficult and having a central repository made more sense.

But in the Internet age, most of those reports are now available online — indeed, the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog that did the initial report blasting the agency, said the easiest way to reach those reports is through a simple Google search.

Even though it sells documents available elsewhere online for free, the agency is still losing money, lawmakers said.

In a letter to NTIS Director Bruce Borzino, Mr. Coburn demanded that the agency stop selling his reports, and instead offer them free of charge. He also demanded to know how many times someone has paid for each of his six reports the agency is selling.

“Thank you for working to remedy this ridiculous situation. It is inappropriate to charge taxpayers and federal agencies for these documents, which are posted online for all to view at no cost,” Mr. Coburn said in his letter.

NTIS said only that it has received Mr. Coburn’s letter and will respond directly to him.

Mr. Coburn introduced the bill along with Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat. In the House, Reps. Jim Bridenstine and Henry Cuellar introduced a companion version.

“This agency has clearly outlived its usefulness,” said Ms. McCaskill. “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.”

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