One federal agency is charging other offices and taxpayers to provide government reports that are largely available free of charge on the Internet. It is essentially the “let me Google that for you” office of the federal government. Home to more than three million records, the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS) collects “government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information” and reports and sells them to other federal agencies. Only it turns out most of what it sells can also be found for free on the Internet with little effort. Established more than 60 years ago, NTIS is a vestige of the pre-Internet era when a lot of the reports the agency collects were not widely available; however, as times have changed agency has not.
Required by law to be largely self-sustaining, NTIS charges other federal agencies to access its collection of reports. However, a November 2012 review of the office by GAO uncovered that about three-quarters of the reports in the NTIS archives were available from other public sources. Specifically, GAO estimated that approximately 621,917, or about 74 percent, of the 841,502 reports were readily available from one of the other four publicly available sources GAO searched. The GAO explains, that the source that most often had the reports GAO was searching for was located at Google. In addition, reports could be found on the website of the issuing federal department, the Government Printing Office’s website, or USA.gov.
Yet, federal departments continue to send taxpayer dollars to NTIS for reports they could get for free with a simple web search. NTIS notes that one of its best-sellers is the Armed Forces Recipe Service, available on CD-ROM for $79. However, the Armed Forces Recipe Service recipe index is also available online and can be downloaded for free directly from the Quartermaster Corps Website. Further, a recipe index that offers 1,700 convenient recipes for groups of 100 that can be easily adjusted up or down, likely falls outside the scope of technical, scientific, and engineering reports the office should be collecting.
Another report sold by NTIS is the 2009 Public Health Service Food Code produced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is available for $69. Alternatively, the report is available for free on the Food and Drug Administration’s website. Moreover, GAO found much of the work outdated because NTIS has focused largely on growing its repertoire of older reports. Specifically, NTIS added approximately 841,500 reports to its repository during fiscal years 1990 through 2011, and approximately 62 percent of these had publication dates of 2000 or earlier. While the office worked to accumulate reports older than those dated 2000, GAO reports that only 21 percent of the reports distributed from 2001 to 2011 were dated older than 1989. Meanwhile, nearly 100 percent of the reports from 2009-2011 were distributed. However, these are also the most likely to be available online elsewhere.
More than 12 years ago, GAO issued two different reports explaining NTIS would need to soon reconsider its function and fee-based model, as the Internet made of the reports it sold available for free. Shuttering the NTIS entirely was first suggested in 1999, by the Clinton administration’s Secretary of Commerce William Daley, who contended declining sales revenues soon would not be sufficient to recover all of NTIS’ operating costs. The Secretary attributed this decline to other agencies’ practice of making their research results available to the public for free through the Web.
According to GAO, the decline in revenue for its products continues to call into question whether NTIS’s basic statutory function of acting as a self-financing repository and disseminator of scientific and technical information is still viable. As the actual “let me Google that for you” website explains, this is for all of those people who find it more convenient to bother you with their question than Google it for themselves. But when NTIS is doing the Googling, the search response comes with a price tag for taxpayers. Federal agencies pay NTIS millions of dollars each year to provide government reports that are available for free online and can be found with a simple Google search. They need to start paying me because I Google everything!
The latest submission to The Magic Weekend is about a young professional man who spends his days in an office cubicle and his nights doing whatever comes to mind for his mood. His actual story does not have even one of the five criteria for being here on The Magic Weekend, there is no Sex, no Jail, no Blood, no Money, and no Fame. So why am I adding this e-mail to the collection of my stories? That will be a question that you must answer for yourselves after you read and digest the information provided. Personally, I think that Robert believes that if he gets his story out there that he may finally see and end or a beginning to something in his future. You see, his story is one of covert lust that, to date, has not been resolved and he hopes that by walking us through his story that it will help him look for clues he has yet to discover. As always, I try to provide as many pictures as I can. This is one of those cases that I can only provide the two pictures you see as the other 30 some odd pictures are just a wee bit racy. I’m not in the habit of censoring what people read or see but I would like to keep my blog somewhere in the PG rating. With no more from me, let’s get on with Robert’s torrid little story.
“Hello, my name is Robert and I have a truly bizarre story for you today. My story actually takes much longer than a mere weekend, it has gone on for right at 4 weeks now. I’m sending you a mess of pictures in the order that I received them to better illustrate what has been happening. Where do I begin. How about a little background of what I do for a living as well as how I spent my time away from work. If you look through the pictures you will see one or two showing a gaggle of cubicles. That is my work environment. This is where I sit for basically 10 hours a day, cut off from the world below me and from any outside contact with other human beings. The job is real monotonous but it pays my bills leaving me with enough money to still enjoy my life here in Houston. I’m not from Houston, I’m actually a transplant who was chasing the all American dream of having a good career and making a good salary. I grew up and went to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), graduating with my degree in Kinesiology. When it came time for job placement I was put on to information about a company in Houston that specializes in the design, concept, and implementation of biomechanics and orthopedics. When I accepted the job offer it was at the bottom tier of the career path. I figured I had to start somewhere, why not doing research, analysis, and comparison. Translation, I read and I read and I read. Then I get to provide my information for statistical analysis which is used for approach and further investigation. Sounds complicated, but it’s really not too bad. How does this play into everything? It has everything to do with it. My social life and work life does not overlap, meaning that I have work friends and I have friends outside work, the two never cross that line. In over a year of being with this company I can think of only one other text I received while I was at work and that was from my mother wishing me a great first day of work. Which, would have been a real push of enthusiasm for me it had actually been on my first day and not eleven days into it. I know she meant well. Anyway, right at four weeks ago I get a text from a number I don’t recognize. It’s a local number so I figure I will look at it and see what is up. When I opened it up I had to look around to see if anyone saw me looking at the picture of the girl which was being displayed. The text read “I’ve been watching you and have noticed that you have not noticed me yet”. Slowly I peek out over the top of my cubicle to look around, to see if I could see anyone looking at me that looked like this girl. I got nothing. It actually ruined my whole day because I couldn’t stop trying to figure out who she was. Not real good for productivity. It is what it is though. I ended up taking work home with me because of the entire day being a bust.
The next day about the same time in the morning I get another text from this mysterious creature. By now I think she is really trying to get my attention because that picture was a bit more exposing. Thinking to myself I don’t want to get any further behind or get fired I put my phone away and got back into getting my work done. Lunch rolled around, we get a whole 30 minutes which usually leads to most people just bringing their lunch and eating in the lunch room. On that day I decided to go to the atrium area of our building to get away from my other distractions and have a few minutes to try to figure out who this girl was and what she wanted. I keep thinking she is sending these pictures to the wrong person and that I am not the intended target of her affections. Don’t get me wrong, the attention is nice, even if it isn’t for me. It can’t be for me or can it. This continued every following day. Everyday I paid attention to who was around me no matter where I was at. Thursday nights is when my friends and I get together and usually go see a new movie and then go to a local bar to shoot darts and have a few beers. I found myself getting real paranoid because I could not figure out who she was. After about 4 weeks the pictures started becoming quite explicit, to say that I was getting to see a new side of her each day would be a complete understatement to say the least. The last picture I got of her was impressive, she is quite limber and acrobatic, it was sent with this message which haunts me still to this day. It read “I’m sorry you haven’t figured out who I am in your life. Be at the Red Lion Pub tonight at 10pm. look for me and you will see me”. Really? I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
I went home after work in quite a hurry. I needed a shower and to get dressed. I felt like a girl getting asked out on a first date. I don’t have allot of leisurewear as most of my wardrobe is casual business attire. I mixed and matched and finally thought I had it figured out. Then, I was done, walking out the door. I wanted to get there early and do a little situational observation. In reality I wanted to check the place out and see which one of my jackass friends was going to jump out and say “Gotcha!”. What I got was a fistful of mass disappointment and despair. I sat there until the placed closed down. Well, I actually didn’t just sit in one spot, I would walk around, sit at a new spot, walk around, and so forth, all night long. She never showed up. For some reason I didn’t include this in the options of what could happen that evening. She didn’t show, it was plain and simple. Did she get cold feet. Right about closing I decided to text her and ask her where she was and if she forgot about our meeting. There was no reply. I called her, my call went straight to voicemail. I left her the voicemail message of “sorry I missed you tonight, maybe another time”. I collected my belongings and hailed a taxi to take me back home. I waited for a call or a text, any sign that I wasn’t crazy and that she had a great reason or no reason for standing me up. Nothing. That nothing is what continued from that point forward. I waited like a love struck puppy for an entire week for something, anything from her. At the end of the week I called her one last time and was answered with a recorded message telling me that the number I was trying to reach is not available. Did she change her number? Was the other one disconnected? I will never know since I never even knew her name. So, back to my life, back to the cubicle, I will always have more questions than answers, it will always be a mystery to me who she would be to me, I feel a bit heartbroken but know it wasn’t all real. I mean, it happened, but it didn’t actually mean anything. Now, I have some very enigmatic memories of a nameless girl who was very talented. I won’t ever solve this puzzle, but if I do I will be sure to update you.
Can y’all see now why I included this as a Magic Weekend submission. There was the promise of something from someone. The story intrigued me enough that I found myself feeling bad for this guy. I found myself wanting to reach out to help him. Therefore, I included his story here. Makes me wonder though, was she just screwing with him? Was he the intended recipient of all those texts? Is this that has been lost to ever be found ever again? Answers I will probably never know. I hope y’all enjoyed Robert’s story. I look forward to all the submissions I get to the Magic Weekend. Just e-mail them to me. What did your weekend involve? Sex? Jail? Blood? Monet? Or Fame? Send me your story now and see it here in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to your many returns.