RESOLUTION ON MAINTAINING GOVERNMENT WEBSITES
DURING A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
A Whereas public online access to federal government information directly affects U.S. citizens in areas as diverse as weather forecasting, natural hazards, immigration, health, and taxation;
B Whereas federal government information has been paid for by the public through taxes and should remain freely available even during government shutdowns;
C Whereas from October 1 through 16, 2013, the United States federal government shutdown and curtailed most routine operations after Congress failed to enact legislation or interim authorization for appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014;
D Whereas there have been 18 partial and total federal government shutdowns since 1980;
E Whereas Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-11, OMB Memorandum M-13-22, and the Department of Justice Attachment to OMB M-13-22 do not provide sufficient guidance to agencies about government websites during government shutdowns;
F Whereas during the 2013 government shutdown some federal web sites became inaccessible, while others continued to function at full or limited capacities; and the public was not informed which agencies were in which category; and
G Whereas Federal Depository Libraries were unable to provide alternative access to electronic information to the public during this shutdown; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA):
1. urges the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Department of Justice (DoJ) to develop guidance to federal agencies stating that, in the event of a government shutdown, continued access by the public to information on agency websites is an “excepted” activity that would warrant the retention of personnel or the obligation of funds to maintain (or update) the agency’s website;
2. urges the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in the absence of such a guideline, to direct each agency to communicate the status during a shut down of its website to the Government Printing Office or another appropriate agency, which would widely communicate and update information about which major agencies are maintaining their websites, which are updating them, and which are closing them;;
3. urges that the OMB declare GPO or another appropriate agency to be deemed “excepted” or essential during a shutdown in order to coordinate making government information available to the public.
4. urges GPO to expand its automated harvesting of Federal agencies Web sites and to redirect persistent uniform resource locators (PURLs) to GPO-harvested copies rather than agency Web sites;
5. urges OMB to direct agencies to work with GPO in hosting their publications and data in the Federal Digital System (FDsys).
6. urges that GPO or another appropriate agency be directed to develop a contingency plan for continued public access to information; and
7. urges that GPO or another appropriate agency be directed to maintain a clearinghouse of web pages that provide alternate ways of accessing government information.
Jan 3, 2014, 6:00 PM
Note that Department of Justice Attachment 2 to OMB M-13-22 states that “The mere benefit of continued access by the public to information about the agency’s activities would not warrant the retention of personnel or the obligation of funds to maintain (or update) the agency’s website during such a lapse.” DoJ provides only one example of an exception: the IRS site.