7 Websites That’ll Go Dark (or Be Neglected) During the Government Shutdown

Yes, the Panda Cam is down. Repeat: The Panda Cam is down. Expect the list to grow if the shutdown continues.

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

The U.S. Capitol is photographed through a chain fence in Washington September 30, 2013.

“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.

Library of Congress

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.”

NASA

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.”

National Park Service

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.

Federal Trade Commission

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.”

Federal Election Commission

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.”

Department of Veterans Affairs

According to VA’s shutdown document, in the event of a shutdown “VA’s homepage (www.va.gov) will be updated intermittently.”

National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam

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.

4 comments
txq1328
txq1328

Shutting down websites with the government shutdown is ABSURD.  The websites run themselves!!!!  They don't need to be touched!  I am in the IT field and I know this for a fact.  Agencies are only shutting them down to make some strange point, whatever it is.  They could easily just let them run but they are not doing so.  This is completely STUPID.

LVAgorist
LVAgorist

The fearmongering by politicians never ceases. Its not like the government will consider ceasing bombing foreign countries, but nothing they are shutting down can't be provided by the private sector far more efficiently. NASA? Seriously? Private startups are doing what NASA does for a small fraction of the cost. Its not like Pandas are going to go extinct without the state.