On Jan. 1, the Interior Department’s website crashed and was down for nearly a week. Reports indicated a power surge caused physical damage to the computer servers.
The agency’s internal watchdog launched an investigation and now says it found the reason the website was down for so long: No one’s really sure what’s going on.
In fact, the entire Interior Department website appears to be hosted on servers run by the National Park Service, said the agency’s inspector general. But the National Park Service doesn’t have the organization it needs to manage and run all the computer systems.
The park service’s inventory of its computer systems is “wholly incomplete,” partially because of a program that tracks all Microsoft products but ignores software from any other companies, the inspector general said.
Other offices have often been left in the dark about who’s in charge of what systems.
“NPS hosts the DOI website under a verbal agreement made in 2009 between individuals that no longer work for DOI,” investigators said. “DOI’s Office of Communications does not know the terms of that agreement.”
Likewise, the park service didn’t have a backup plan in the event of a crash.
“The prevailing attitude of NPS officials appeared to indicate that a timely recovery of the DOI website was not their priority,” the inspector general said.
The entire department needs to decide who should be in charge of computers and websites, the inspector general said, and make sure the activities are better organized and coordinated.
The National Park Service is reviewing the inspector general’s report and “intends to provide a formal response, including some corrections and clarifications regarding the situation,” said spokeswoman April Slayton.
“Maintaining public access to the important information available on the Department and National Park Service’s websites is a critical responsibility that we take seriously and work to improve constantly,” Ms. Slayton said, adding that the department is working to move the website to a cloud hosting provider.
“Until that transition takes place, the department is working with the National Park Service to make sure the right capabilities are in place to support the website,” she said.