- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Federal employees every day print millions of pages that are instantly discarded or recycled, costing the government an estimated $440.4 million each year, a study released Tuesday said.

The federal government spends nearly $1.3 billion annually on employee printing, of which roughly one-third is dubbed “wasteful printing,” according to a survey of 380 federal employees conducted on behalf of printer maker Lexmark Inc.

The figure, Lexmark contends, is “more than $1 million per day and more than four times the amount President Barack Obama recently called upon agency chiefs to eliminate from their administrative budgets.”

An official of one federal watchdog group said the survey - even if a computer printer company sponsored it - rings all too true.

“It makes way too much sense,” said David Williams, vice president of policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based think tank.

“We see a culture of bureaucracy. When given a choice, even with these huge technological advantages, you don’t see the government taking advantage of this. Private industry and business has taken advantage, but this government hasn’t,” Mr. Williams said.

“President Obama has called for fiscal responsibility, and identifying and eliminating unnecessary printing is a simple first step,” said Marty Canning, a Lexmark vice president.

“Clear, standardized, and enforced agency printing policies, as well as increased reliance on secure digital records, will help change the employee printing habits that have become so ingrained in the government ‘corporate culture’ and enable agencies to decrease their carbon footprint,” Mr. Canning added.

Despite claims of a growing environmental consciousness among younger federal employees, the so-called “Generation Y” workers, the survey indicated they were on a par with their older colleagues who may have entered federal service before the first Earth Day.

According to the survey, Gen Y employees print nearly the same average number of pages per day as baby boomer employees, a total of 29 pages versus 31 pages respectively. Both groups toss out almost the same amount of freshly printed pages, 31 percent for Gen Y and 34 percent for boomer federal workers.

The online survey by O’Keefe & Co., an Alexandria public relations firm, canvassed 380 workers in March.

The majority, 53 percent, held jobs at a rank of GS-12 and below, while 56 percent classified themselves as civilian federal workers. Of the rest, 42 percent said they were Department of Defense employees and 2 percent said they were involved in intelligence.

While 80 percent of respondents said they were “responsible” in their printing use, this came up against a finding that 92 percent of people responding said they do not need all the documents they print in a day, noting as one reason the common statement that “most of my printing is distributed to colleagues who prefer to have a hard copy,” the survey reported.

Mr. Williams said the report’s conclusion that one-third of all federal desktop printing is wasteful “ties into the mentality of ‘use it or lose it’ when it comes to [an agency’s] funding.”

“We’re having a huge expansion of the federal government,” he added, “Few voices are telling the government to save money. There’s not a sense of frugality in Washington, D.C., not a sense of need right now for the government to save money.”

The survey’s conclusions suggest implementing “automatic duplex printing” to save paper cost by printing on both sides of a sheet; putting a “clear printing policy in place”; converting more documents to digital files as substitutes for paper; and holding employees accountable for their printing habits.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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