By the end of this year, the national debt will be more than the country's GDP, but it won't be the Fiddlin' Foresters' fault.
President Barack Obama, in this video about cutting waste, targeted the Fiddling Forest Rangers. He said the government pays to operate their Web site. "I'll put their music on my iPod, but I'm not paying for their Web site," the president declared.
Within hours after the release of the video, the foresters -- and their fiddles -- were history.
Who knew cutting waste could be this easy?
But if a Web site dedicated to the Fiddling Foresters is a waste of government money, why does the government even have the Fiddling Foresters, the official "old-time string band of the US Forest Service?" From their doomed Web site (the cached version):
The band has performed at national conservation meetings, state fairs, the 2002 Winter Olympics, other international events and seminars, the National Western Stock Show, teacher workshops, elementary schools, national celebrations, open houses and various Forest Service meetings and events. They travel with complete costumes, sound system, stage lights, rear-screen projection system with PowerPoint visuals and video, props, and instruments. Depending on the occasion audience members often receive a tri-fold brochure that highlights appropriate conservation messages and the performance program.
The president Obama appointed VP Joe Biden to root out the waste, and he ordered an aggressive first step -- no more Web sites.
Starting right now, there is a freeze on all .gov URL's. This means no one can get a new one without a written waiver from the federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. Facing this constraint, agencies will focus on their current infrastructure, adding content and functionality to existing websites.
Vivek Kundra is the country's chief information officer. By the way, he's got a Web site -- cio.gov. Which do you think had more page views: Kundra's or the Fiddling Foresters?
How much does this really save? Hardly anything. The Fiddling Foresters hadn't updated their Web site in months, so no one was being paid to update it. That pretty much leaves the cost of the domain name -- a $10 per year savings. Assuming a $13.8 trillion deficit, we only need to shut down 138 billion government websites to get out of this jam.
In today's announcement, there was no mention of the blockbuster story from the Los Angeles Times today. The biggest cash airlift -- nearly two dozen C-130 planes stuffed with money -- in the history of the country has resulted in what may be the biggest theft of government money in history:
This month, he Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash -- enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.
For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."
How many Web sites will the government have to shut down to get its $6.6 billion back?
The biggest waste in government websites is the lack of a unified way to host them... not the $20 domain name registration.
Websites are an economy of scale in action, hosting 1 costs a lot in infrastructure, and servers, etc. hosting 400 costs less per site... Hosting 4,000 costs less per site... last I heard each agency hosts their own sites, on their own servers, with their own back up sites if needed...
Larger data centers are more efficient, moving all the sites to 2-5 major data centers (knowing the government a few of them probably in military bunkers) would probably cost the same as turning off all the stupid ones...
more over, the military band has a larger budget then all of americorp's (which was on the chopping block for last round of cuts with the legislature) and for that matter probably larger then the entire investment from the government in the corp for public broadcasting.
Our government has us paying for lots of things we need to get out from under. Lost planeloads of cash, the war in Iraq, and yes, string band web sites. Meanwhile, we are starving our schools and can't seem to get universal medical care up to speed.
Each level if government needs to consider what really matters and do those things well. Programs have accumulated like barnacles on a ship. Time to scrape some of them off.
All that consolidation is a fantastic plan--but it doesn't bring about immediate savings, nor is consolidation free. It should be done, and at the state level there are significant consolidation efforts underway. But If you're looking for a way to cut a few million tomorrow, big efficiency programs and finding economies of scale aren't it.
And yet, the Pentagon was allowed to keep its 2 million dollars for Nascar in the budget.
As for the idea of centralizing all of the .gov websites on a few servers: that's not asking to get hacked, nope, not at all.
David, Security is actually usually better on one large data center where managed systems are put in place... where in 100's of small server rooms, different rules apply to different machines and security varies. We are just as likely to be hacked now as we would be if we consolidated... but MR is right, it's not going to slash the budget tomorrow, it's going to slash the budget after we recoup the ROI...
Though the youtube video is entitled "campaign to cut waste", and while I can't watch it at work right now, I suspect the "cut waste" part is going to have to take a back seat to the "campaign" part (meaning it's all about perception, and dollar values/reality doesn't matter much.)
Wait, we just sent PALLETS OF MONEY to a war zone? Yet somehow we're calling the bailout of the US car industry "a waste of money?"
One of the sites they roll past while talking about wasteful sites is InvasiveSpecies.gov. How is the federal government hosting a digital clearinghouse and info hub for invasive species wasteful? Good thing they left this site up ... an advisory council on this issue is hosting a big meeting starting tomorrow in Colorado. It's actually a rich site with plenty of info ... just the thing I'd expect the interior department to be doing.
Well, we could get rid of the forest service and their $5 billion budget. Then we could sell the 193 million acres at a reasonable $1500/acre that would net $289 billion. That $294 billion (plus finding the $6.6 bullion we lost) would cover almost 1/5th of 2011's projected deficit.
p.s. you have interhanged deficit and total debt in your article above...the $13.8 trillion deficit only becomes a reality post health care refrom enaction ;-)
I worked as a web designer for a small company when I lived in Michigan and counties and townships were looking to add websites. I was surprised to find out that .gov address cost $125 a year to register, not that $10 a year it is for .com or .org addresses. This turned a lot of local governments away from a website in a hurry.
(Source for cost: http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/reqs_bestpractices/best_practices/domain-registration.shtml)
Why does it cost 10x as much for the government to register a Web site (and why does this sound like last week's Tim Pawlenty economic speech (g))
[cue: creaking rocking chair sound effect]
It used to cost $35/year for a .com and you were required to register it for 2 years at a time. Then they opened up the registration process and the price went down. But .gov, .mil, .edu are all under much tighter control (as they should be) and so I'm guessing the reasoning is to discourage inappropriate registrations.
That said, I believe the US Federal Government is the registrar of .gov domains, so they may not "pay" for them anyway. At least it should be "revenue neutral".
Yes, let sell off all our National Forests. The Chinese would be the likely buyers having the cash to spend. Then after they have chopped down off all of America's forrest for chopsticks, whenever it rains we will be living under mud forever and drinking the same. Thank you Libertarian Reason.
I think I almost ran over one of those Fiddling Foresters last week while driving east on Warner Road inroute as a taxi for the kidlets. The said Fiddler appeared out of nowhere and almost instantly became roadkill. A kid in the back seat mumbled something about "Smells like Jurasic Park"
//Well, we could get rid of the forest service and their $5 billion budget. Then we could sell the 193 million acres at a reasonable $1500/acre that would net $289 billion.
I agree we could get rid of the USFS, since their primary purpose is to build free roads for the logging industry. As for selling the land - I'm not sure anyone would buy it...the loggers get the timber they want already without having to buy the land. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?
Plum Creek might buy it, but aw hell, they wouldn't want to pay much since the 6.8 million acres they already own came free from the government years ago.
This has been commented on, but I want to make the point that a website, even if it's not being maintained, costs a lot more than $10 a year. Even if no one is actively "updating" the website, the files are still living on a server somewhere, and maintaining that servers and hosting those files costs money. It's been mentioned that .gov domain names are more expensive. Add to that that someone with a personal website might pay $15 dollars a month for web hosting. Not that that is that much money, but that's for something that wouldn't scale to nearly the level of what you might expect a .gov website to scale to, and that's if you're buying hosting from someone else. I'm sure that they're maintaining their own servers, which means having their own IT team to maintain them and have onsite in case of emergency failure. So, cutting down enough of these websites certainly results in savings of more than $10.
//maintaining that servers and hosting those files costs money.
Sure, but they're not shutting down the servers. Take the Fiddling Fiddlers files off -- looks like about 10 pages -- and those servers are still running, the people are still paid to maintain them.
I suppose if all the cruddy Web sites were on the same server, you could shut down a server. How much does that save? How many people would lose their job.
With a $13.8 trillion dollar deficit, this stuff isn't a drop in a bucket. It's barely relative humidity in a bucket.
Let's get serious.
Yeah, I'm not going to argue that shutting down a few servers are going to fix the deficit -- but its still more savings than your original post pointed out.
And its still nice to see him taking an action against unnecessary government spending. Again, there's obviously a _lot_ more that needs to be done. This doesn't fix things like the Times story, and I agree with you that there's the bigger question of why the US Forest Service has a band.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I mostly agree with everything you said. I still think shutting down the websites is valuable, and worth a mention...but you're right that it's likely doesn't need to be central to our discussion on reducing government spending. (Though, for what it's worth...I'm glad my tax dollars aren't supporting that website anymore.)
CIO retires! meaning no one can get a waiver... no one can get a new web page!
CIO was also fighting for the consolidation I mentioned above...
Well, by all means, let's take the Fiddlin' Foresters off so we can afford to lob another missile into Libya - and kill another 9 civillians.