Obama To Close 50% Of Federal Websites

Say goodbye to the website of Fiddlin' Forresters, an old-time string band made up of U.S. Forest Service employees. It's on a hit list as the White House targets wasteful spending.

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor

June 13, 2011

3 Min Read

Slideshow: 12 Worst Government WebSites

Slideshow: 12 Worst Government WebSites

Slideshow: 12 Worst Government Websites(click for larger image and for full slideshow)

President Obama on Monday revealed a new campaign to eliminate wasteful spending across the federal government that includes improved transparency and accountability, shutting down hundreds of websites, and freezing the development of new ones.

Spelled out in an executive order, the Campaign to Cut Waste includes the creation of a new Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB) that will do for spending across the federal government what the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board did for spending of recovery funds.

That board oversees the Recovery.gov website, created in February 2009, which allows people to track how the federal government is investing the $787 billion stimulus measure. It was one of the first broad transparency and accountability moves by the Obama administration.

The GATB in six months must submit a report to the president identifying how it will integrate systems that support the collection and display of government spending data. The report also should include information about how to ensure the data is reliable as well as how it will broaden the deployment of fraud-detection technologies, according to the order. Other administration transparency efforts in the past have been criticized for inaccurate data.

The campaign also calls for a freeze on the creation of new websites and the elimination or consolidation of 25% of the federal government's existing 2,000 sites over the next few months, according to the executive order. Over the next year, the feds should cut the number of standalone websites in half.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden revealed the new campaign in separate video appearances posted on the White House.gov website, which were reinforced by a live announcement by Biden Monday.

Assuming an almost jocular tone as he laid out some of the wasteful spending that still needs to be cut, Obama outlined some of the unnecessary website spending the government is currently engaged in, such as the home page for a group called the Fiddlin' Forresters, an old-time string band made up of U.S. Forest Service employees.

"I'll put their music on my iPod, but I'm not paying for their website," Obama said.

In his talk, Biden stressed the importance of extending the accountability and transparency of a site like Recovery.gov across federal agencies to help keep track of where federal money is going and engaging taxpayers in that effort to reduce waste and fraud.

"The online tracking of dollars … can and should be applied government wide," he said. "We're insisting that every federal agency is focused on transparency and accountability."

What industry can teach government about IT innovation and efficiency. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: Federal agencies have to shift from annual IT security assessments to continuous monitoring of their risks. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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