White House reprioritizes online accountability

The websites for the Fiddlin’ Foresters – the official U.S. Forest Service folk band – and one for desert tortoises are a couple of websites that could be on the chopping block in the White House efforts to cut wasteful spending.

Jeff Zients, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management and chief performance officer, said there are more than 2,000 .gov websites and 24,000 sub-sites or micro-sites. The administration’s goal is to cut at least 25 percent of the 2,000 sites in the next few months, and more than 1,000 websites in the next year.

President Obama signed an executive order this week to create a Government Accountability and Transparency Board modeled after the Recovery Board, which tracked stimulus funds and led to Recovery.gov.

Whether a comparable site is set up for GATB is unclear now. The tracking system could look like what Rep. Darrell Issa is proposing in a bill that would set up an “electronic platform” to monitor grants, contracts, loans and internal agency expenses. This information would be made available to the public.

The administration has not yet stated how it will identify the .gov websites to be cut. But how will the closing of smaller sites – like one dedicated to the fast-declining desert tortoises – impact transparency? And what will its choices say about stances on larger issues?


Writing about the desert tortoise website, the Guardian reports, “It would be easy to dismiss this as a harmless joke – except that the Obama Administration has been steadily downgrading environmental protections, or ditching them altogether since the Republican victories in last year’s mid-term elections.”