Government Websites and the Shutdown Showdown: Amber Alerts Down, ‘Let’s Move’ Up

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NASA.gov is down – but pages on the site that cater to kids are up. Screenshot by Decoded Science.

White House Guidance on Shutdown

According to the shutdown Frequently Asked Questions, listed at the White House, “... What if the cost of shutting down a website exceeds the cost of maintaining services?

The answer: “The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services.”

What criteria does the White House establish for websites? Not much. In essence,

“…if maintenance of the website is necessary to avoid significant damage to the execution of authorized or excepted activities (e.g., maintenance of the IRS website may be necessary to allow for tax filings and tax collection, which are activities that continue during an appropriations lapse), then the website should remain operational...”  In other words, if the government determines that a website is necessary to avoid that significant damage, they’ll keep it up, regardless of cost. If they determine that it is not necessary, they’ll shut down or block it from view – also regardless of the cost.

Government Shutdown, Political War: Information and Science are Collateral Damage

Although it’s clearly necessary to shut down some aspects of the government in the light of a lack of funds to pay for certain services, determinations when it comes to websites may not be based on technical realities. Politics or policy, the fact remains: NASA.gov is down, and AmberAlert.gov is down. LetsMove.gov, however, is up and running.

Resources

Executive Office of the President. MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES. (2013). White House. Accessed October 7, 2013.

Sanchez, J. The Government Shutdown on the Web. Cato Institute. Accessed October 7, 2013.

Change.gov. Home. (2009). Accessed October 7, 2013.

Let’s Move! America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. (2013).

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