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Department of Commerce
Thursday, August 12, 1999


Washington, DC - Commerce Secretary William M. Daley today announced his intention to work with Congress to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at the Department of Commerce, while preserving public access to scientific and technical reports. After extensive review and analysis it was determined that the core function of NTIS -- providing government information for a fee -- is no longer needed in this day of advanced electronic technology.

Established in 1950, NTIS' core business - the sale of government documents in microfiche and on paper - is rapidly becoming less of the necessity it was as agencies and groups have begun to post their reports on the Internet for free. For example, the Commerce Department recently released a report called, "The Emerging Digital Economy II." This report can be downloaded from the Department of Commerce website for free rather than for a $27 fee through NTIS. These changes in the information marketplace have made obsolete the need for NTIS to serve as a clearinghouse and thus have, in turn, made it increasingly difficult for NTIS to maintain its operation on a self-sustaining basis, as established by Congress.

NTIS' sales have dramatically declined over the last six years with the advent of the personal computer and increased use of the Internet. In fact, NTIS' core clearinghouse business has not operated at a profit since FY 1993. In its March 1999 Semiannual Report to the Congress, Commerce's Office of Inspector General concluded that "even with significant efforts to improve its profitability, NTIS can no longer generate sufficient revenue to remain self-supporting." If this proposal is not implemented, NTIS will be in danger of going bankrupt.

"This was a tough decision to make, but sound management dictates that we cut our losses and recognize the technologically advanced environment we live in," said Secretary Daley. "This is the right thing to do and the best thing for the American taxpayer."

The Commerce Department next month will send to Congress proposed legislation closing NTIS and shifting its paper, microfiche, digital archives and bibliographic database to the Library of Congress. In addition, Commerce will work to ensure that government technical and business information provided by government agencies remains available to the public for long periods of time. The American people could continue to find these technical reports through search engines that currently exist (at, for example, the Library of Congress).

If Congress approves this proposal, Secretary Daley has instructed his staff to work closely with the over 250 employees of NTIS to assist them with job placement within the Department. The Secretary also has sent a letter to Office of Personnel Director, Janice Lachance, requesting the Office of Personnel Management's assistance with both the placement and retraining of NTIS employees.

Fact sheets with additional information are available on the Commerce Department's website at www.doc.gov or for a fax call the press office at 202-482-4883.

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