Digital Gov

OMB updates 12-year-old federal website policy

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The Office of Management and Budget replaced a 12-year-old policy for federal agencies' public-facing websites with a new set of requirements it says will make those digital assets more accessible, secure and functional.

The memo from OMB Director Shaun Donovan; Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; and U.S. CIO Tony Scott states that the new policy builds on the 2012 Digital Government Strategy and the 2014 Digital Services Playbook for developing effective and user-centric digital services.

The new policy replaces guidance for federal websites that was issued in 2004 by Clay Johnson, who was OMB's deputy director for management at the time.

Under the new policy, federal agencies must make sure their public-facing websites are accessible from a variety of devices, keep track of the data generated by the sites and report regularly to the General Services Administration on pertinent data via GSA's DotGov Dashboard.

The memo also directs GSA's Office of Government-wide Policy to create a new council of agency web/digital directors within a month to facilitate the new reporting and compliance requirements.

In addition, agencies must establish basic governance of their websites and digital services and treat them as part of their overall mission strategy and not just "discrete individual IT projects." Agencies also must post those governance plans on their websites under a "Digital Strategy" page.

Furthermore, agencies must keep track of usage data to better understand their users' needs and behaviors, and continually test their websites to make sure those needs are being met. As part of that effort, agencies must participate in GSA's Digital Analytics Program and deploy tracking code on all their public-facing websites.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Fri, Nov 11, 2016 Owen Ambur Hilton Head Island, SC

The memo says, "Agencies must manage their websites and digital services not as discrete individual IT projects, but as part of a comprehensive strategy covering all their digital information and services." It also says, "Agencies must provide a machine-readable Public Data Listing ... in accordance with the Project Open Data metadata schema and a human-readable Public Data Listing ...." And it directs agencies to provide links to their strategic plans and performance plans. However, it makes no reference to Executive Order 13642, making machine-readability the default for all government information, presumably including agency websites, or to section 10 of GPRAMA, which requires agencies to publish their strategic and performance plans and reports in machine-readable format. Regardless of what may come of Executive Orders and memoranda like this one, compliance with the legal mandate set forth in GPRAMA will be a key performance indicator (KPI) for the next administration.

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