No effort in site

Thomas R. Temin

The great Transition Web Site Caper makes little sense.

As President Bush's people came into office last month, the National Archives and Records Administration instructed agencies to take so-called snapshots of their Web sites as they existed just before the inauguration, lest records be lost [GCN, Feb. 5, Page 1].

Implicit in all this last-minute frenzy was that the start of a new administration would mean a sudden and total overhaul of federal Web sites. Indeed, to the surprise of many, including me, the Bushies wiped clean the Clinton-era White House site and replaced it with a rather Spartan site.

Spartan is putting it politely. The current White House site, at whitehouse.gov, looks like someone did it in a couple of hours using templates right out of Microsoft FrontPage.

Similarly, as reported by GCN's Patricia Daukantas, the State Department chose the presidential switchover date to debut its revamped site. The changes were long in the planning, a State spokeswoman said.

But why the imperative to redo Web sites all of a sudden? Couldn't the Bush team have de-Clintonized the existing site but still have left the attractive shell that by now is familiar to millions of Americans? Crews redecorate White House offices between presidencies, but they don't paint the mansion blue.

To be sure, Web sites need regular refreshing. But considering the hastily thrown-together White House site, the effort looks more like a bid to erase any vestiges of Clinton than to offer the public something new.

Certainly, a new administration has the right to put its own face on the executive branch. I can understand the desire to have the new president's face hanging in every federal building by the morning following inauguration.

But Web sites are agencies' faces to the public, offering access to millions of documents, as well as information and services that have no political or partisan quality. Except for the material that is obviously out of date after transition, Web sites should be changed when new services and functions demand, not on political whim.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@postnewsweektech.com

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