Dec. 25, 2018 —
The Defense Logistics Agency is spread far and wide, but one place many would be surprised to find DLA is the White House. Often referred to as “the president’s printer,” the DLA Executive Print Facility was commissioned in the late 1970s through an executive order by President Jimmy Carter. Now with only two employees, the division is small but does big work servicing the president, first lady, White House staff and other agencies of the Executive Office of the President, along with some members of Congress.
While DLA’s other print facilities are primarily on military bases
, this one is in the basement of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House. The print facility is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the president and his staff, and the employees are required to have special clearances to work there.
Employees Mischelle O’Neal and Jackie Brown are constantly busy. Every day brings normal routine tasks but also something new. O’Neal and Brown are on the ball printing daily reports and travel itineraries for the president and other EOP agencies that fall under the Executive Branch, and they provide support directly to the president as needed. When not working on routine items, they produce a variety of posters, large-format photos, place cards, signs, flags and other displays. They even produce luggage tags for the president’s travel. There’s not much they can’t do.
The facility runs in two shifts to accommodate these important customers as quickly as possible. In an average month, they receive about 200 orders, plus a slew of others that come in from their ordering site, Data Services Online
. It’s typical for them to receive a lot of last-minute orders and updates to things they may already be working on.
O’Neal knows time is of the essence for many of their customers.
“Everyone is in a hurry in D.C. I have finished last-minute orders for someone who was standing by to run it to the senator waiting in his car, ready to go on the Hill,” O’Neal explained. She recalled other times when she’s hand-delivered orders during events at the White House.
“It’s often a race, but we do our best to get the job done and make sure it’s a quality product.”
Quality is critical. Even simple things like how tabs are lined up must be exact, or the item will not go to the customer. There are special papers requiring different handling, seals, foils and weights. There are also controlled items that, depending on the order, must get an extra-thorough review before they’re printed.
Proofs allow customers to see what they’re getting in advance, and O’Neal and Brown always recommend customers take advantage of that. Much of what they produce has high visibility and is expected to be perfect.
“I’ve had things not go out because of a small speck on the paper,” O’Neal said. “A lot of our items are on display, and hence they’re a reflection of the White House.”
Controlled items require special paper and seals so they can be official. Things like executive orders and proclamations are frequently printed at the facility.
Occasionally they see their work on TV, catching glimpses of their printed briefs in the hands of members of Congress or of the news media at press conferences — or as posters in the background at events.
Last September, they produced a series of large photos of children from around the world. These touching photos were set up at a United Nations reception where the first lady delivered a speech about the “Be Best” Campaign to discourage bullying.
“We get to be a part of creating some great stuff that has a real effect on people and events,” Brown said. “Some stuff we know will be going straight to the president,” O’Neal said.
They recently produced the director’s book for the Office of Management and Budget. At certain points in the year, government offices produce reports that typically end up in the hands of Congress and even the president. Brown and O’Neal print and bind them.
O’Neal estimates that about 60 percent of the items they produce are large format, like posters and banners. Poster orders are constant and pick up during holidays.
“We do all the posters for the entertainment at the White House Holiday Open House,” O’Neal said. “Sometimes there are two to three bands [performing] in one day, and the open house runs for almost a month. It’s always fun to see what’s coming through.”
They do much more than printing, though. The majority of their work is hands-on, not just pushing the start button. Many items they produce require cutting, lamination, trimming, curving corners, folding and putting things together properly — all requiring a lot more time than a typical print job. The DLA Executive Print Facility supports a lot of different offices in the White House with that hands-on work — things like making tabs and putting them in binders.
“Sometimes we aren’t printing at all,” Brown said. “The photo shop will print their own pictures and bring them to us to be trimmed and mounted. Many of the photos in the East Wing were mounted by us.”
“They know they can come to us and we’ll take care of it, so they can keep the focus on their area of expertise,” O’Neal added. The White House Photo Shop, Social Office, Calligraphy Office and Visitor Center are frequent customers.
With all the events on the premises, things like tickets, badges, credentials and parking passes are often requested. The duo recently printed 1,050 tickets for the White House trick-or-treat event.
“There are so many things that go into these events and make them run smoothly that people wouldn’t normally think of, and we produce a lot of it,” Brown said.
When asked what the busiest time of the year is, O’Neal teetered between the holiday season and elections before saying, “All the time.” There’s always something going on, and they are always ready to support.