Senator questions OMB's efforts to shutter federal websites

A senator dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s metrics on its progress to shutter federal websites as part of a wider anti-waste campaign is getting an explanation as to why the numbers don’t always tell the whole picture.

In a June 7 letter to the Congressional Research Service, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) asked for a review of the White House’s progress on the Campaign to Cut Waste initiative. The effort expands on an executive order that calls on the administration to slash government waste, including reducing the number of federal websites with 50 percent within a year

A year following the campaign kickoff, that goal is far from being accomplished, Coburn said in his letter. The White House’s own numbers at the time of the campaign launch indicated there were 1,758 websites within the dot-gov domain. Twelve months later, CRS’ status update showed a decrease of roughly 300 websites, “at least 579 short of reaching their goal of cutting the number of websites in half,” Coburn said.

In a response to Coburn, the CRS summarized the Office of Management and Budget's accomplishments with the anti-waste campaign but said the analysis was based on publicly available information on the Internet and therefore does not necessarily contain all the information and events that had occurred.

For example, the executive order directs the vice president to convene regularly with the OMB head to discuss improvements made under the anti-waste campaign. However, a website that lists those meetings may not always include all instances they occurred, CRS explained.

CRS also noted many documents once available to the general public are now password protected by OMB’s “MAX” system, which only executive branch employees can access. 

Additionally, tracking the adoption of administrative efforts may prove difficult if there are no statutory requirements for certain types of transparency or reporting, CRS added. The anti-waste effort itself isn’t a statue, CRS said, but “rather, it could be characterized as an administrative effort that follows from more general duties and responsibilities under law and the use of available discretion by the president, [OMB] and agencies.”

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