In January 2006, Larry R. Felix was just getting used to being the
newly appointed director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Not that he was a newcomer to the BEP — he had been working there in
various roles since 1992, but as he said at the time, as director the
buck now stopped at his desk.
Now as he approaches his official retirement date of Jan. 31, 2015,
he agrees the old adage is still true: Time flies when you’re having fun!
Felix is retiring after 23 years with the U.S. Treasury Department.
He was appointed the 25th director of the BEP on Jan. 11, 2006,
following the retirement in 2005 of Director Thomas Ferguson. Felix
became the first black American to serve as director.
“It is amazing how fast time flies,” Felix said. He’s clearly proud
of all that BEP employees have accomplished at both the Washington,
D.C., headquarters facility and the Western Currency Facility in Fort
When he first took office, one of his short-term goal was to get the
redesigned $100 Federal Reserve note into production and then into
circulation. That goal was accomplished in October 2013 after many
delays, some mechanical and some more unexpected.
But in between 2006 and 2013, another redesign project became
necessary rather unexpectedly.
Counterfeiters were bleaching off the ink on genuine $5 FRNs, then
using the paper to print fake $100 FRNs. The forgers could do this
because of the similarities between the placement of the security
features on the $5 and $100 notes. Something needed to be done.
The government decision to redesign the $5 denomination reversed a
long-standing position by the Treasury Department that it would not
redesign the $5, $2 and $1 denominations.
Because the $5 FRN is used in vending and other self-service
machines, BEP officials worked closely with manufacturers of bill
validating machines so adjustments could be made and the machines
would still accept the redesigned note.
The redesigned $5 Federal Reserve notes entered circulation in March 2008.
“One of the benefits we have redesigning denomination by
denomination is that we can see what’s happening out there [in the
marketplace] and respond,” Felix said in 2008. The BEP was able to
design and print the redesigned $5 FRNs quickly so as to minimize any
damage the fake $5 Federal Reserve notes could have done.
A longer-term goal was the training of BEP employees to implement
new indirect inking intaglio presses, giving the BEP the ability to
print a 50-subject sheet of currency, compared to the 32-subject sheet
produced for decades. The new presses required changes at every level
of the BEP production operation, from the note inspection to the
cutting and numbering systems and the packaging.
Felix said he was proud that the transition was accomplished in
2014. He said the conversion to larger 50-subject sheets will “save
the government millions of dollars” because of the ability to manage
processes and inspection of notes with the introduction of new machines.
The changes in production processes and equipment now allow
employees to make decisions about problems more quickly because
technology allows press operators to know when a sheet is going out of
“We get reports about color imbalance or sheets that are drifting
[out of tolerance],” Felix said, and printers can make decisions
immediately to correct the problems before they continue.
“The notes we put out will now be much more consistent [within
printing guidelines] and thus more readily accepted at point of
sales,” he said.
The newly adopted technologies in the manufacturing of paper money
have required the BEP to document each step in the printing process.
Felix said the concept of stakeholders has broadened through the
years. He said traditional stakeholders used to be the Federal
Reserve, the Secret Service, and financial institutions. Over the
years manufacturers of vending machines, coin-operated devices and
machinery used at self-checkouts in supermarkets and department stores
have joined the ranks of shareholders.
Felix said he’s also learned to know when to leave. He said he
hasn’t decided what his retirement will involve, but he said he will
not miss his normal work schedule — awaken at 4 a.m., then be in the
office by 6 a.m. (so he can chat with employees on third shift), and
then leaving for home by 5 or 5:30 p.m.
He said he will miss BEP employees and others he’s worked with
around the world, but he is “very confident” about leaving now,
knowing what has been implemented so far.
Current BEP Deputy Director Leonard Olijar will serve as acting
director when Felix retires.
It will be up to Treasury secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew to appoint a
new director for the BEP.
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