A similar fate awaits NASA Web sites, according to the agency's shutdown plan, which notes that the public "will not have televised access to NASA operations and programming or access to the NASA Web site."
A number of agencies' contingency plans made no mention of their online presences, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. But last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provided some general guidance that seems to imply that many government Web sites will be down.
OPM advises that the “mere benefit of continued access by the public to information about the agency's activities” doesn't warrant the resources needed for non-essential Web sites to stay up. It does say that if Web site maintenance is needed to avoid “significant damage” to an essential activity, it can remain up, like maintaining the IRS Web site so tax filings and collections can continue during a shut down. But even in that case, online services are to be maintained at the lowest possible level – so while the IRS Web site might stay up, the whole Treasury Department likely would not.
The memo also says that if a Web site is down, it should show a standard notice that it will be unavailable during the shutdown. If any part of an agency's site remains accessible, it should post a notice that it may be out of date and information or inquiries submitted through the site may not be processed until after the shutdown. The memo also says that non-excepted sites are to shut down even if the cost of shutting them down is higher than maintaining them.
As of press time, OPM did not respond to a Washington Post inquiry requesting a list of specific online federal resources that would remain available during a shutdown.
And as my colleagues Hayley Tsukayama and Brian Fung pointed out, it's not just public electronic communication that would be down. About half of federal employees who would be furloughed in the (increasingly likely) event of a government shutdown would not be allowed to check their e-mail during their out of office downtime.