“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress,” quipped Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens in his nonfiction 1897 travelogue Following the Equator. Who knows what Clemens would have made of last night’s Congressional failure to keep the lights on — and let’s face it, everyone failed here — but with some 800,000 federal employees furloughed and upwards of a million more being asked to work without pay, chances are he wouldn’t have been any politer.
Just before midnight ET, the Office for Management and Budget issued orders instructing that “agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” The federal government is closed (or in process of closing) for business, in other words, which means many of the online informational mechanisms that undergird various governmental activities are due to shutter, too.
Federal News Radio intercepted an email sent by Lisa Schlosser, the OMB’s deputy administrator in the Office of E-Government and IT. In it, Schlosser writes that ”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.” Those “clear and consistent communications” include governmental websites and online services.
But which ones won’t be deemed necessary? Here’s a list of government sites expected to be neglected — or shuttered entirely — during the shutdown.
The website of the oldest, largest library in the United States, the Library of Congress wrote last Friday that “In the event of a temporary shutdown of the federal government, beginning Tuesday, October 1, all Library of Congress buildings will close to the public and researchers,” adding that “all public events will be cancelled, and web sites will be inaccessible except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and Congress.gov.”
The space agency’s shutdown plan, revised last Friday, includes “examples of activities that would not continue,” specifying that “Citizens will not have access to NASA operations and programming or access to the NASA website.”
In addition to closing national parks and recreational areas to visitors, the National Park Service will shutter its website, according to an anonymous official who confirmed as much to Ars Technica, redirecting visitors to a message explaining the shutdown.
While the FTC writes in its shutdown plan that it intends to keep “as many as six employees” from being furloughed “to ensure the integrity and security of the agency’s IT infrastructure,” an FTC spokesperson told Ars that the agency’s website would be essentially shuttered “except for a splash page.”
The FEC writes in its shutdown plan that “staff will shut down all Commission information systems, except that the Commission web site shall remain on, but static.”
According to VA’s shutdown document, in the event of a shutdown “VA’s homepage (www.va.gov) will be updated intermittently.”
Last but not least, the National Zoo writes, “If the federal government shuts down on October 1, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will be closed to the public. All programming and events will be canceled. All vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle paths into the Zoo will be closed. None of our live animal cams will broadcast.” And sure enough, as of this morning, Tuesday October 1, the panda cam has gone dark.