In a digital age, print continues to meet mission requirements

  • Published
  • By Josh Plueger
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
Through entrance 11 and over inactive train tracks of the lower-level Martin Bomber Building, sits a solitary door in the repurposed World War II manufacturing plant - behind it, a decades-old mission persists.

Behind this door, Joe Knott, an electronic duplicating systems technician, walks among industrial print machinery juxtaposed with state-of-the-art modern copiers and printers. Since 1979, Joe Knott, a Vietnam veteran, has been collating, binding, laminating, cutting and printing both classified and non-sensitive print products for the Department of Defense.

Technological advancements in printing and the proliferation of digital mediums has reshaped the print industry many times over since 1979. The Defense Logistic Agencies Document Services, formerly referred to as the Defense Automated Print Service, has had an 82-person office cut to just a couple of people by the early 90s, and a 35,000 square foot facility reduced to 8,000.

"The biggest changes came after Strategic Air Command was deactivated in 1992," Joe said. "Print is here to stay though, they can't go without it."

United States Strategic Command is DLA Document Service's largest customer as the duplication of classified material is unique to the print shop.  No other DLA print shop has the clearance to duplicate classified materials, with the exception of the Pentagon's internal print office.

The accurate preparation of these paper copy formats is critical to mission accomplishment and our zero defect policy," said Scott Thomas, USSTRATCOM J3 Emergency Actions, Standards/ Evaluations and Training Manager. "Joe is the point man for supplying USSTRATCOM Global Operations Center and Airborne Command Post with sensitive paper copy formats used for preparing and transmitting emergency action messages to the forces."

When Joe is duplicating classified hard-copy documents, the Document Service's shop is completely locked and secured. The files are locked into a vault until delivery via the U. S. Transportation Command's defense couriers.

Knott's top secret clearance isn't required for the remainder of his print requests, which support every branch of the DoD. The scope of his geographically dispersed clientele extends well beyond the gates for non-classified prints as well. Resource managers can email or hand-carry a cd to the Document Services office or visit https://www.dso.documentservices.dla.mil to upload and track print requests as well as get estimates.

Knott's capabilities are vast and often under-utilized. He has, at his disposal, an assortment of papers that can give a publication a professional touch. Heavy weighted papers for booklet covers, weather durable prints, tasseled programs, posters, flyers or gold and silver foil applications are just a few of the materials that can enhance print products.

"If there is anything we can't print in our facility we can outsource it to another Document Services shop and have it to the customer in the same amount of time as if it were printed locally," Joe said.

Payment for print products can be handled one of two ways. Government Commercial Purchase Cards (GPC) or the transfer of funds through the Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR).

Printing outside Document Services is against Department of Defense Instruction which states "DLA Document Services shall serve as the DoD single manager for printing and high speed-high volume duplicating, including both the operation of DoD in-house facilities and the procurement of these services from outside the Department of Defense, and as the preferred provider of document conversion and/or automation services," (DoDI 5330.03).

In conjunction with print products, DLA offers a copier program where offices can lease a copy machine which covers all toner and maintenance on the machines for the duration of the lease.

"Through the copier program we have already leased out almost 400 copiers on this base alone," said Knott. "The copiers will be set up in each office after they are ordered through us."

The end of print has been predicted since the early 1990s. People assumed the digital future would not need such archaic mean of communication yet print continues to have purpose well into the 21st century.

The once robust 82-person office was cut to only Joe. For 14 years he manned the DLA office, solely continuing to fulfill the printing needs of the DoD in the sleepy corner of the Martin Bomber building.  Joe now shares his office with a temporary hire and the return of a long-time colleague in Christine Zabrowski.

When asked the age-old question if print would ever die, Joe confidently remarked "Going paperless, that's history."