Years of decentralized efforts by federal agencies to share information using the World Wide Web have resulted in a tangle of thousands of government websites, a fifth of which are no longer in use, according to a new government report.

The new “State of the Federal Web Report,” released Dec. 16 by a government task force, represents the first comprehensive review of federal websites, following the Obama administration conclusion earlier this year that there were simply too many government websites.

The report, which drew its conclusions from information supplied by 56 federal agencies about their web site operations, and those of their subsidiaries, found:

  • Agencies identified 1,489 .gov domains and an estimated 11,013 registered websites.
  • There is wide discrepancy in the number of domains and websites operated–some have one, some have hundreds, with NASA operating the most: 1,590 websites.
  • Nearly two thirds of agencies reported operating more than 50 public websites; several agencies could only estimate how many they had.
  • Five of the major federal agencies report more than 100 domains (see chart above.)
  • Nearly a fifth of domains (19%) are reported as inactive.
  • Agencies plan to eliminate or merge 30% of the domains, while maintaining 70%.

According to responses from 24 major agencies regarding the governance of web sites across their entire organization:

  • About a third of agencies (35%) reported that they have standardized web policies and procedures across their departments/agencies.
  • Agencies reported using a total of 150 different content management systems for creating and publishing web content.
  • Agencies also reported using a total of 250 web hosting providers, with an average of 10 providers per agency.
  • Many resource decisions occur at the program or bureau level rather than looking strategically across the agency to leverage economies of scale.
  • Most agencies reported that there is not a common web design for the entire department or agency, but that there is more consistency within operational units.
  • A few agencies (10%) reported using the same performance metrics to consistently evaluate websites across their department/agency.

“We had identified websites to serve as models and have asked agencies to submit web improvement plans,” said federal CIO Steve VanRoekel during a presentation the same day the report was released. During the presentation, he highlighted web reform as one of several steps the administration is taking to reduce unnecessary technology use in government.

Many agencies noted that the surveys were the agency’s first attempt to identify all the domains and websites in their agency and to develop plans to evaluate and consolidate their
web footprint, the report said. Fewer than half of agencies report having an agency-wide web strategy although most agencies reported conducting regular reviews to ensure accuracy and accessibility of web content.

The report also highlighted findings from interactions with the public, which led to hundreds of suggestions for way to improve users’ experience with various federal websites.

Agencies are required to update their plans for streamlining their web efforts in Spring 2012 to align with a new Federal Web Strategy initiative expected to be released in early 2012. The plans are part of a broader Obama administration initiative dating back to last April to improve customer service.

The report is the result of an Aug. 12, 2011, Office of Management and Budget request of agency CIOs to work with their respective Web and public affairs managers to submit a report, within 60 days, on their efforts to streamline agency-managed .gov domains and to develop agency-wide Web improvement plan.

The following agencies have submitted their current plans as follows:

· Agency for International Development
· Department of Agriculture
· Department of Commerce
· Department of Education
· Department of Energy
· Department of Health and Human Services
· Department of Homeland Security
· Department of Housing and Urban Development
· Department of Justice
· Department of Labor
· Department of State
· Department of the Interior
· Department of the Treasury
· Department of Transportation
· Department of Veterans Affairs
· Environmental Protection Agency
· Executive Office of the President
· General Services Administration
· National Aeronautics and Space Administration
· National Archives and Records Administration
· National Science Foundation
· Nuclear Regulatory Commission
· Small Business Administration
· Social Security Administration