The federal government operates thousands of Web sites, but barely half of its .gov domains are currently active, according to a new report that inventories the government’s Web holdings for the first time.
Across the government, 56 federal agencies own at least 1,489 .gov domains and 804 of them are functional, the report said. Another 400 .gov domains redirect to other government Web sites, 265 don’t work and 20 are under development.
The data, published in a report issued late last week by the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget, was compiled between August and October and the report cautioned that the number of domains fluctuates as agencies eliminate, consolidate or create them. According to a list compiled by Data.gov, there are currently 1,551 .gov domains registered by federal agencies.
The government defines a “domain” as a registered .gov name on the Internet. Agencies must register and renew their domains with GSA each year, the report said, noting that multiple domains may point to the same Web site. For example, MoneyFactory.gov and BEP.gov both point to the Internet home of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, while USDOJ.gov and Justice.gov both point to the Justice Department’s Web site.
The report estimated that agencies operate about 11,000 Web sites, but cautioned that a definitive tally is difficult to obtain because the definition of a Web site is “somewhat subjective” and complicated by agencies that host multiple, unique sites under one domain. NASA.gov, for example, contains the agency’s main site and several others for individual projects, missions and agency offices.
Agencies reported that they plan to continue operating about 70 percent of the government’s .gov domains; 26 percent of the domains will be eliminated in the coming months while 4 percent will be merged with other sites.
The number of domains owned by federal agencies varied from 160 at the Treasury Department to just two for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Five agencies own more than 100: Treasury, the departments of Health and Human Services and Commerce, the General Services Administration and the Interior Department. Of those, HHS, Interior and Commerce operate the most active domains, while Treasury owns 67 inactive domains, the report said.
And who visits federal Web sites most often? Federal employees.
Among primary users of the 804 active domains, the report said 63 percent are federal workers, followed by researchers and the press.
Notably, agencies reported using a total of 150 different systems for creating and publishing web content and 250 wWeb hosting providers. Most decisions on how to publish Web sites occurs at the program or bureau level instead of among top agency leaders.
Obama administration officials are sure to seize on those findings as another example of wasteful government spending. The report was published as part of the White House’s Campaign to Cut Waste, which launched over the summer in an effort to identify wasteful or duplicative government spending.
Federal Chief Information Officer Steven Van Roekel said last week that consolidation of federal sites, publishing tools and servers is likely, but never expected to reach the consolidation achieved in other countries. During his speech, Van Roekel mentioned a British project that consolidated roughly 2,000 government sites under two main Web domains.
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