Administration to cut wasteful Internet domains

Campaign creates new board of fraud and waste watchdogs

Editors note: This story has been amended to correctly reflect the difference between websites and domains.

The Obama administration is taking a machete to duplicative federal websites as part of its new Campaign to Cut Waste, which builds on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Vice President Joe Biden will lead the campaign. The administration plans to stop the creation of new websites and has a goal of shutting down or consolidating 25 percent of  the government's sites over the next few months and cutting the number of stand-alone sites by 1,000 during the next year, according to a statement from Biden's office. The statement referred to 2,000 websites, but that may actually be a reference to the number of top-level domain sites, such as WhiteHouse.gov.

Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media, explains in a blog post that there are nearly 2,000 top-level domains in the government, which support close to 24,000 websites "of varying purpose, design, navigation, usability and accessibility."


Related story:

Government agency reorganization plan sent to Obama


The Campaign to Cut Waste includes a 90-day freeze on new .gov addresses, to force agencies to improve the sites they have rather than create new ones, Phillips writes. Agencies also have to take inventory of the websites they currently have.

The government also needs to develop a policy for the future, and exactly what that means is unclear at this point, he adds. "While it’s pretty obvious that we don’t need thousands of websites, what we do need is a little trickier," he writes. 

The Office of Management and Budget, under Biden's direction, will lead the effort to identify and eliminate unneeded sites, said Jeffrey Zients, chief performance officer and OMB's deputy director for management.

The administration plans to set up a central website that will track government spending across all programs and at all levels.

The same day as Biden's announcement, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing the campaign. The order creates a new oversight and accountability board and requires Cabinet members to meet regularly with Biden to share their progress on cutting waste.

"Over the last two years, we have been slashing waste across government, and today we are putting Washington on notice: The president and I are committed to changing the way government works, and we are stepping up the hunt for misspent dollars,” Biden said.

He emphasized the importance of transparency in the government’s ability to root out waste and said the American people can be some of our best watchdogs.

The new oversight board's 11 members will include agency inspectors general, chief financial officers, an OMB official, and other members designated by the president. The group will work closely with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and its chairman, Earl Devaney, whom Biden credited as the Recovery Act’s point guy.

The order also directs agencies' chief operating officers to lead performance and management reform efforts, including those related to IT, and holds CFOs responsible for achieving cost savings. COOs and CFOs are expected to report their results to OMB on a regular basis.

The campaign aligns with the administration’s Accountable Government Initiative, which was launched last year. As part of that program, OMB officials reduced contract spending and began the process of consolidating federal data centers and eliminating excess federal real estate.

In a video message posted at WhiteHouse.gov, Obama said making government more efficient has been a priority of his administration.

“But as we work to tackle the budget deficit, we need to step up our game,” Obama said. “No amount of waste is acceptable — not when it’s your money, not at a time when so many families are already cutting back.”

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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