Will NTIS Go Private?
A Reagan Administration push to have a contractor operate the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), a self-supporting federal agency, is encountering resistance on Capitol Hill. Critics of the plan claim that a private contractor cannot distribute information more cheaply than the 42-year-old organization currently can. Instead, they say that the proposal will drive up prices and reduce public access to U.S. and foreign technical documents.
The idea of converting NTIS to a private enterprise has been mentioned since 1981 when Joseph Wright, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), was deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce. The Administration, however, did not pursue the matter until December 1985, when OMB asked Commerce to study the potential options for transforming NTIS into a privately run operation.
The department now appears to have narrowed its choices to two approaches-- having a contractor operate the facility, or having the service administered by an employee-owned company. Under either of these options, the government would retain the...