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Only half of dot-gov sites are active, GSA reports

Nearly one-fifth of federal Web domains are inactive and one-fourth redirect to other dot-gov sites, according to an inventory conducted between August and October.

Active government domains employ 150 different content management systems, a hodgepodge of design templates that vary wildly from one division to the next, and a host of different performance metrics, according to a report compiled by the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget.

The report, released Friday, was put together as part of GSA's dot-gov reform initiative, which aims to drastically reduce the number of federal websites and to impose a more standardized look and feel on those that remain. The initiative is linked with another plan to improve the government's online customer service.

The report lists 1,489 total government Web domains and about 11,000 websites.

For the purposes of the reform initiative, a top-level domain is essentially a unique Web address with a World Wide Web prefix and a dot-gov suffix such as www.state.gov. The list of websites also includes lower-level domains such as Travel.state.gov, the State Department's traveler resources page.

At most of the inactive sites in the report, agencies appear to own the Web domain name but are no longer maintaining it. Some sites may have been shut down as part of the reform initiative, though.

Agencies already have announced plans to entirely shut down 26 percent of dot-gov domains, most of which are already on the inactive list, and to merge 4 percent of domains into other domains, the report said.

GSA and the Office of Management and Budget likely will push greater consolidation measures on agencies after that initial phase. During an address Friday, Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel mentioned a British project that pulled that nation's roughly 2,000 government sites under two main Web domains.

Such a massive consolidation would be impractical for the much larger U.S. Web footprint, VanRoekel said, but additional stateside consolidation is likely.

Less than half of those surveyed had developed an agencywide Web strategy and most said they managed their websites in a highly decentralized way with different sites managed by different divisions.

The number of Web domains per agency varied widely from only a few at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to more than 100 at the Interior, Treasury, Commerce, and Health and Human Services departments, and GSA.

Some agencies that one might expect to have sprawling Web presences are actually quite compact. The State Department hosts only 24 domains, partly because it has organized the pages of different embassies as subdomains of USembassy.gov. The Defense Department also has kept its Web footprint at a tidy 38 domains, partly because the sites for individual military bases are under the separate dot-mil master domain.

The report's count of 1,489 sites doesn't jibe with a separate list of domains maintained by GSA. That list shows 1,551 domains.

Some of the discrepancy is "due to the fact that agencies were eliminating and consolidating domains during the course of completing the survey," the report stated. That doesn't explain, though, why the more recently updated Data.gov list would include more sites rather than fewer. GSA did not respond to a Nextgov request for clarification Friday.

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