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USACM Statement on White House Executive Order to Reduce Number of .gov Websites

For Immediate Release

June 16, 2011

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In a June 20 letter to the Chief Information Officer of the US Office of Management & Budget Vivek Kundra, USACM (the ACM Public Policy Council) warned against the potential of website reorganization to prevent users from finding previously accessible documents.  To address this issue, USACM stressed that "public documents should have stable URLs that will not go out-of-date or 'break' as sites are dropped, moved, consolidated, or renamed."  

USACM Chair Eugene Spafford and USACM Digital Government Committee Chair Sara Granger acknowledged the benefits of reducing the number of .gov websites to "facilitate the process of finding the appropriate site for desired data in a reasonable timeframe," as well as the cost savings resulting from lower levels of maintenance and support.  They also encouraged White House initiatives to "implement strategies that promote data reusability, and to adopt tools such as stable URLs that enhance the usefulness of government data. Their statement is below, and you can read the letter here.

“With the growing importance of Internet communications, it is essential that websites established and maintained by the U.S. government deliver information and services to the public with accuracy and efficiency. The President’s Executive Order (EO) 13571of April 27, 2011, reducing the number of Federal websites offers opportunities to make this information accessible to all Americans while improving the level of openness and transparency for government services and activities. 

“USACM’s Digital Government Committee members point to this initiative as an apt time for the White House to establish policies that mandate the use of stable URLs for all documents that may be of lasting value. Since Internet communications users often save URLs that link to documents rather than make copies of these documents, these public documents should have stable URLs that will not go out-of-date or ‘break’ as sites are dropped, moved, consolidated, or renamed. Without stable links, website reorganization can prevent users from finding previously accessible documents. While search engines can mitigate this problem, any plans for website reorganization must address the stability issue. This is particularly important for online government documents that set standards or make laws, which may require accessibility through archival connections.

“In terms of efficiency, reducing the number of websites can facilitate the process of finding the appropriate site for desired data in a reasonable timeframe. This step can also lead to cost savings resulting from lower levels of maintenance and support that may be required for the web presence. In addition, transparency may be improved and higher quality information may result if the clutter of overlapping or duplicative sites is removed and more resources become accessible on existing sites. 

“USACM welcomes the White House initiative to recognize the value of the Internet, and to use computing and networking technology to enable organizations and individuals to share, analyze and understand large bodies of information. We encourage their efforts to implement strategies that promote data reusability, and to adopt tools such as stable URLs that enhance the usefulness of government data.” 

About ACM and USACM

With 100,000+ members, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM, www.acm.org ) is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. The ACM U.S. Public Policy Council (USACM, http://usacm.acm.org ) serves as the focal point for ACM's interaction with U.S. government organizations, the computing community, and the U.S. public in all matters of U.S. public policy related to information technology. 

For more information contact:
Virginia Gold
212-626-0505
vgold@acm.org

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