Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) is well known for his Wastebook reports, annual documents that detail the unwieldy and often absurd expenditures made by the federal government. Now, Coburn and a bipartisan group of policymakers have come together to propose a new bill aimed at a single agency, the National Technology Information Service (NTIS), they view as outdated and unnecessary. The bill, snarkily named the "Let Me Google That For You Act," sets its sights on the NTIS for charging for technical reports that anyone can Google for free.
Wasting money for a decade
The NTIS was established in 1970 within the Department of Commerce as a resource for the country's government-funded technical, scientific, engineering, and business data. As such, it compiles and sells that information — often for a hefty sum — to entities willing to pay for it. However, in Coburn's view, the documents the NTIS produces are especially wasteful when 95 percent of that information can now be found on the internet. In fact, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in 2012 that the agency had wasted budget dollars for a full decade.
Citing the GAO's work, Coburn and company make it clear Google is probably more indispensable a data-retrieval tool than the NTIS itself, with the bill itself reading:
(C) 'The source that most often had the report [GAO] was searching for was another website located through http://www.Google.com.'
In an official statement, Coburn remarked that the bill is meant to "eliminate an outdated agency that has lost more than $1 million trying to sell government reports that are available for free online." Should the NTIS be dismantled, its necessary functions will be spread out through the Commerce Department in a more effective manner. However, that remains to be seen; according to USA Today, the proposed 2015 budget sees the agency growing from $67 million to $86 million.