Web snapshots "prudent," Katzen says

Fear that the Bush administration will dismantle federal Web sites upon taking office prompted top Clinton administration officials to ask agencies to preserve "snapshots" of their Web sites on or before Inauguration Day, senior government officials said.

"The beauty of the Web is you can put information up very quickly. You can also take it down very quickly, and as of noon on [Jan. 20], the new administration will have control of all agency Web pages," said Sally Katzen, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Katzen said that some agencies have posted information that the incoming Bush administration "may or may not be comfortable with." For example, pollution information posted by the Environmental Protection Agency and information posted by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration may not remain online, she said.

"Given the ease with which you can take down information, it seems prudent," to preserve "a record of what we have done with respect to putting information and services online," she said.

In explaining the need for the Web snapshots, Lewis Bellardo, deputy archivist of the United States, said that government Web sites have become an important medium for agencies to communicate their role and responsibilities and their major program emphases. "That may or may not change with the incoming administration," he said.

Bellardo sent a memo to agency chief information officers on Friday, Jan. 12, asking for Web site snapshots to be made on or before Jan. 20. Because of the federal holiday on Monday, the National Archives and Records Administration's request did not spread to most agency Webmasters until Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Many Webmasters complained they did not have the time, money or staffing adequate to produce snapshots in the format and with the documentation that NARA wanted by the Jan. 20 inauguration.

However, representatives from Adobe Systems Inc. said it is possible to make Web site snapshots easily, cheaply and quickly. Adobe's Acrobat 4.0 software includes a "Web capture" feature that will download entire Web sites, preserving multiple layers and maintaining working hypertext links, said Tim Conrad, Adobe's government accounts manager.

Many agencies probably already own Acrobat, he said. The software can download an 18M Web site containing 1,300-pages in about 20 minutes, said Mike Ouslander, Adobe's technical business development manager. And it's not labor-intensive, he said. "You could come in to work on Monday morning, point "Web capture' at the site and walk away" while the computer does the work, he said.

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