Government Proposes Secure Document Facility in Nevada

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The nation's steward of public records wants to build a new facility at the Nevada Test Site to handle some of the nation's most secure documents.

Bruce James, the Public Printer of the United States, proposed the new facility for his home state as part of his Government Printing Office five-year ``Strategic Vision for the 21st Century.''

The plan, released Monday, called the Test Site ``one of the nation's most secure federal locations,'' and said the new facility could produce security and intelligence documents including new ``electronic passports'' containing computer chips.

No final decision has been made about a facility at the Test Site, GPO spokeswoman Veronica Meter said. It was not immediately clear whether the printing facility would be in a new or existing building.

It also was not clear how the printing office identified the Test Site as a suitable spot, or what approvals the site would need.

Meter said it likely would not need congressional approval.

Nevada Sens. Harry Reid, a Democrat, and John Ensign, a Republican, support the idea. Reid is incoming Senate Democratic leader.

The proposal was to begin producing passports and other documents at the Test Site by July 2006. The facility would also serve as a ``backup'' digital printing facility for the Federal Register and Congressional Record.

It would be part of a reorganization plan for an agency reshaping its role from what a statement called ``a 19th century, heavy-metal printing operation into a nimble 21st century digital information factory.''

James wants to relocate the agency's main facilities, now just a few blocks from the Capitol, because it is not able to handle technology to support publishing electronic documents. The printing office estimates that half of the government's documents are ``born digital'' or created on a computer, and do not need to be printed on paper.

James, of Lake Tahoe's Crystal Bay, started his job as public printer in December 2002.

His strategic plan said a real estate consulting company helped select and develop new sites including a new headquarters in the Washington area and the security-document facility at the Test Site.

The Test Site, about 65 miles northwest Las Vegas, was the nation's nuclear weapons proving ground until 1992.

Government officials have long pondered new uses for the site, with proposals ranging from wind farms to space shuttle launch pads. In recent years, the site has been used for counterterrorism training.

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