Kundra names task force to consolidate federal websites

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra named a 17-member task force on Tuesday to winnow the government's massive Web presence over the next several months and to update government policies for what justifies a new website or domain.

The White House also released a list of 1,759 top-level federal Web domains Tuesday. That's just under the roughly 2,000 domains officials estimated existed when Federal Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Zients ordered a three-month freeze on all new government websites in June so the government could get its online house in order.

Federal officials characterized the .gov reform effort as part of a governmentwide initiative to streamline operations and improve customer service, which President Obama kicked off with an executive order in April.

White House officials have estimated those top level .gov domains house around 24,000 individual websites and subsites, many of which are duplicative, outdated or simply unnecessary.

Federal agencies are required by Sept. 12 to turn in a list of websites they can consolidate into other sites or scrap entirely. Meanwhile, the task force will be organizing a set of best practices for consolidation and recommendations for updating the government's overall website management policies.

Government websites grew unchecked beginning in the 1990s as agencies, subagencies and independent advisory boards built sites for each initiative or new project and with little oversight from above. The result was a proliferation of rarely visited and poorly maintained sites such as Couldihavelupus.gov.

In a blog post shortly after the website freeze was announced, the White House floated the idea of having a single U.S. government Web domain with all agency and subagency sites incorporated into it.

That appears to be modeled after a British government initiative that dates to 2006. Over five years, the British have cut or consolidated about 75 percent of their roughly 2,000 government websites.

Kundra stressed in a live online chat Tuesday that a single government Web domain is not a "foregone conclusion" and that the task force will take significant input from agencies and from the public.

The task force likely will impose some more common design templates on federal websites, said member Sheila Campbell, head of the General Service's Administration's digital government division, which will allow the sites to more easily share videos and other content.