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New Performance.gov website faces performance problems of its own

The Performance.gov website, launched Thursday as a central repository for information about federal agencies' spending, hiring and cost-cutting initiatives, soon will be the main home for all federal performance websites, a White House official told Nextgov.

In accordance with a governmentwide campaign to rationalize the federal Web presence, Performance.gov will become the master domain for government performance data with other performance-tracking websites, such as the Federal IT Dashboard, rolled into Performance.gov as lower-level domains, the Office of Management and Budget official said.

But the site faces major performance challenges of its own. A last-minute deal between the Obama administration and House Republicans to avert a government shutdown in April cut fiscal 2011 funding for online open government initiatives by more than three quarters to just $8 million.

The OMB official said Thursday the administration does not consider the current version of Performance.gov to be compliant with the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, but OMB is "committed to continuing to enhance the site" before the act's October 2012 deadline.

"Congress did not pass the level of [E-Government] funding the president requested and . . . that has had an impact on pace of development," the official said.

The current version of Performance.gov does have a search bar, but it is only minimally functional. Searches for the names of federal agencies, such as "defense," "agriculture" and "transportation" for instance did not turn up any results.

When the funding deal with lawmakers was reached, then-federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra told Congress he would cut two planned open government initiatives and suspend planned improvements to others, including Performance.gov.

An OMB official told Nextgov then that the office couldn't guarantee it would be able to meet a congressional deadline for making the site fully public with content that is searchable and machine readable.

Future performance initiatives will be wrapped into Performance.gov's "one-stop shop," the official said Thursday. Some performance sites that the agency considers duplicative or outdated already have been archived, the official said, such as the George W. Bush administration's Expectmore.gov.

The government's website trimming initiative aims to save money by deleting many outdated and seldom used federal sites and by consolidating others within master sites so they have the same architecture and content management systems. The federal Web presence has ballooned to nearly 2,000 high-level domains and about 20,000 total websites since the 1990s.

A high-level domain is the equivalent of a main agency website, such as the Transportation Department's DOT.gov with only one bit of text differentiating it from other dot-gov sites. Lower-level domains have other bits of text, typically separated by back slashes and are devoted to subagencies or offices, or to specific initiatives.

Another goal of the website cutting initiative is to make government services more accessible online and at giving government sites a standard look so people can easily distinguish between what's a government site and what's not.

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