Agency websites, other technology to go dark during shutdown

Monday - 9/30/2013, 4:08pm EDT

Agencies need to take specific steps to prepare technology systems and their websites for a possible government shutdown tomorrow.

The Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration sent out guidance to chief financial officers addressing the steps they should take to ensure the protection of IT systems, and how to deal with websites that will go dark once funding lapses.

"Agencies should work closely with their general counsel offices (OGC) to evaluate all contracts that fund the IT platforms they operate — including government-owned and operated, contractor-owned and operated, or cloud solutions — to determine whether activities involving those platforms may, pursuant to the Anti-deficiency Act, continue, or whether they must cease during a lapse in appropriations," wrote Lisa Schlosser, OMB's deputy administrator in the Office of E-Government and IT, in an email message to CFOs, which Federal News Radio obtained. "Agencies should develop agency-specific guidance as needed, and should ensure clear and consistent communication to the public with respect to IT activities across all of the agency's components."

Part of that clear communication Schlosser refers to is regarding agency websites.

A separate email from GSA's Sarah Crane, director of USA.gov, to agency Web managers, said shutting down websites "could have serious search engine optimization implications."

Crane's email included a shutdown banner message that directs citizens and users to USA.gov for information about government services.

GSA provided this banner to agencies to put on their websites if they need to be shut down.



Crane also offered different approaches depending on the status of funding for a particular website.

For example, Crane said an agency could redirect the webpage to another site that is hosted by the agency or to a site GSA will make live if a shutdown occurs.

Crane said Joanne McGovern has been deemed essential and can make updates to USA.gov if necessary during a shutdown.

Beyond websites, OMB also reminded agencies of their responsibilities for social media sites and cybersecurity of IT systems.

OMB told agencies to consult with their general counsel to ensure third-party social media sites do not incur any costs during the shutdown. Once that's been determined, Schlosser said, "the agency should exercise its judgment in determining whether it nevertheless would be prudent for the agency — as a policy/programmatic matter — to turn off the resource, or disable features associated with it, during a lapse period."

When an agency takes any system offline during the shutdown, Schlosser said agencies should ensure all data and information are appropriately safeguarded to avoid any long-term disruptions.

OMB issued more detailed contingency guidance Sept. 17 where it addressed other IT issues such as what systems should be kept live and what to do with government furnished mobile devices.

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