The Government Printing Office was created by congressional joint resolution (12 Stat.117) on June 23, 1860. It began operations March 4, 1861, with 350 employees and reached a peak employment of 8,500 in 1972. The agency began transformation to computer technology in the 1980s; along with the gradual replacement of paper with electronic document distribution, this has led to a steady decline in the number of staff at the agency. For its entire history, the GPO has occupied the corner of North Capitol Street NW and H Street NW in the District of Columbia. The large red brick building that houses the GPO was erected in 1903 and is unusual in being one of the few large, red brick government structures in a city where most government buildings are mostly marble and granite. (The Smithsonian Castle and the Pension Building, now the National Building Museum, are other exceptions.) An additional structure was attached to its north in later years. The activities of the GPO are defined in the public printing and documents chapters of Title 44 of the United States Code. The Director (formerly the Public Printer), who serves as the head of the GPO, is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director selects a Superintendent of Documents.
The GPO first used 100 percent recycled paper for the Congressional Record and Federal Register from 1991 to 1997, under Public Printers Robert Houk and Michael DiMario. The GPO resumed using recycled paper in 2009.
In March 2011, the GPO issued a new illustrated official history covering the agency's 150 years of "Keeping America Informed".
With demand for print publications falling and a move underway to digital document production and preservation, the name of the GPO was officially changed to "Government Publishing Office" in a provision of an omnibus government funding bill passed by Congress in December 2014. Following signature of this legislation by President Barack Obama, the name change took place on December 17, 2014.
By law, the Public Printer heads the GPO. The position of Public Printer traces its roots back to Benjamin Franklin and the period before the American Revolution, when he served as "publick printer", whose job was to produce official government documents for Pennsylvania and other colonies. When the agency was renamed in December 2014 the title "Public Printer" was also changed to "Director". Davita Vance-Cooks was therefore the first "Director" of the GPO.
GPO has been producing U.S. passports since the 1920s. The United States Department of State began issuing e-passports in 2006. The e-Passport includes an electronic chip embedded in the cover that contains the same information that is printed in the passport: name, date and place of birth, sex, dates of passport issuance and expiration, passport number, and photo of the bearer. GPO produces the blank e-Passport, while the Department of State receives and processes applications and issues individual passports. GPO ceased production of legacy passports in May 2007, shifting production entirely to e-passports.
In March 2008, the Washington Times published a three-part story about the outsourcing of electronic passports to overseas companies, including one in Thailand that was subject to Chinese espionage.
United States. Adjutant-General's Office. Military Information Division (1901). Publication, Issue 33. WASHINGTON: G.P.O. Retrieved February 19, 2011.(Document (United States. War Dept.))(Original from Harvard University)
United States. Adjutant-General's Office. Military Information Division, p (1901). Publications, Issues 33-34. p. 528. Retrieved April 1, 2013.
United States. Adjutant-General's Office. Military Information Division, Stephen L'H. Slocum, Carl Reichmann, Adna Romanga Chaffee (1901). Reports on military operations in South Africa and China. July, 1901. WASHINGTON: Govt. print. off. p. 600. Retrieved February 19, 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)(Issue 33 of Publication (United States. Adjutant-General's Office. Military Information Division) Issue 143 of Document, United States War Dept Issue 33 of Publication, United States Adjutant-General's Office)
Stephan L'H. Slocum, Carl Reichmann, Adna Romanza Chaffee, United States. Adjutant-General's Office. Military Information Division (1901). Reports on military operations in South Africa and China. WASHINGTON: G.P.O. p. 600. Retrieved February 19, 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)(Issue 143 of Document (United States. War Dept.))(Original from the New York Public Library)
Security for GPO facilities is provided by the Government Publishing Office Police. The force is part of the GPO's Physical Security Group and in 2003 had 53 officers. Officers are appointed under Title 44 USC § 317 by the Public Printer (or their delegate). Their duty is to "protect persons and property in premises and adjacent areas occupied by or under the control of the Government Printing Office". Officers are authorized to bear and use arms in the performance of their duties, make arrests for violations of federal and state law (and that of Washington, D.C.), and enforce the regulations of the Public Printer, including requiring the removal from GPO premises of individuals who violate such regulations. Officers have concurrent jurisdiction with the law enforcement agencies where the premises are located.