White House memo: Shut down government sites, even if it’s cheaper to leave them online

by Jon Christian

A number of high profile federal websites have been shuttered following the government shutdown — NASA.gov, FTC.gov, the Library of Congress, and the USDA, as well as data.gov, usa.gov and many others. Why, though? Are they actually saving money by closing sites, when the infrastructure is already there to keep them running?

A bureaucratically dense memorandum by Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia M. Burwell, on planning for a lapse in appropriations, may be partially to blame:

“Federal activities funded through lapsed appropriations is that such activities, including IT operations, may continue only if they are excepted activities under the Antideficiency Act, or where their continuation is necessarily implied from a congressional authorization or appropriation of other continued functions,” reads the document.

And if it’s cheaper to leave a site online? Tough luck.

“The determination of which services continue during an appropriations lapse is not affected by whether the costs of shutdown exceed the costs of maintaining services,” Burwell wrote.

A list of agency contingency plans is available on WhiteHouse.gov, which has not been closed down.

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