Obama’s vow to cut federal websites in half is still a distant goal

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The administration says it has incorporated 66 of the ideas from the SAVE Award over its last three budgets.

Caught in the web

As pledges go, the vow to cut websites — measured by domain names, such as FBI.gov, WhiteHouse.gov or Data.gov, which is where the list of domains is published — was minor. It doesn’t involve major savings in time or money to the government. But Mr. Obama held it out as a tangible symbol of his efforts to cut waste.

He also issued a moratorium on new websites.

By both those measures, though, the administration still has a long way to go.

In June 2011, there were 1,759 web domains. A year later, when Mr. Obama’s deadline passed, there were 1,478 domains, a drop of 16 percent. As of last week, there were 1,280 domains, meaning a total cut of 27 percent, little more than halfway to the goal the president wanted to achieve last year.

Analysts say websites are prestige items for many federal managers, who are reluctant to cut them.

Ever more striking is that 15 websites have been created over the past two years, including two by the Treasury Department this year.

MakingHomeAffordable.gov and VerifyPayment.gov didn’t exist in January, but are up and running now. The first is a joint project of Treasury and the Housing and Urban Development Department, while the second doesn’t contain any information and merely redirects visitors to another page.

An administration official said the freeze remains in effect, so it’s not clear why those 15 websites were created.

The official said that many of the websites the government hasn’t eliminated are just automatic “redirects” that immediately send a user to another site.

“Redirects are a common best practice used when websites are being consolidated and a tactic to decrease the clutter of citizen-facing websites,” the official said. “We are continuing work to consolidate domains while respecting appropriate records management requirements and focusing on our end objective of providing better services for the American people.”

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