|“||A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.||”|
- - James Madison (Aug. 4, 1822)
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) (formerly the Government Printing Office) dates to 1813 when Congress determined the need to make information regarding the work of the three branches of Government available to all Americans. The GPO is a legislative branch agency and the federal government's primary centralized resource for gathering, cataloging, producing, providing and preserving published information in all its forms.
Many of the government's most important information products, including the Congressional Record and Federal Register, are produced by the GPO. GPO competitively buys products and services from thousands of private sector companies.
The agency is overseen by the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) which in 1895 was charged with overseeing and regulating U.S. government printing. GPO operates on the basis of a number of statutory authorities first granted in the 19th and 20th centuries that presume the existence of government information in an ink-on-paper format, because no other format existed when those authorities were enacted. GPO's activities include the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which provides permanent public access to published federal government information, and which last received legislative consideration in 1962.