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Federal websites may go dark if shutdown occurs

Declan McCullagh at CNET reports that many federal Web sites will likely go offline if the government shuts down Friday night. “A 16-page memo (PDF) to federal agencies says their Web sites may stay online only in a small number of situations, including tax collection and handling ‘exempted’ activities such as payments and other functions that are paid for by previous annual budgets.”

So how will permanent public access be maintained in the event of a shutdown? Will the standard notice include information on how to find your local federal depository library? The public won’t even be able to find a list of depository libraries on the FDLP desktop (fdlp.gov) but will have to go to Documents Data Miner hosted by the library at Wichita State University. The Washington Post has a list of govt agency shutdown plan details — including GPO — but only states, “If the government were to shut down, a [GPO] skeleton staff is expected to stay on to print copies of the Congressional Record and other White House documents.” It’s unclear whether or not fdlp.gov, fdsys.gov or other GPO sites will remain online in the event of a shutdown.

“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 Web site” during a shutdown, says the memo, prepared by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

It adds: “If an agency’s Web site is shut down, users should be directed to a standard notice that the Web site is unavailable during the period of government shutdown.” The IRS’s Web site would likely stay online, the memo says, because tax collection is an exempted activity, “but the entire Treasury Department Web site would not.”

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