Pace at Which US Government Can Update its Websites

Shengrong Yin, Hessam Mohammadmoradi, Dong Han, Anirup Dutta, and Omprakash Gnawali

Networked Systems Laboratory in the Computer Science Department at the University of Houston.

November 1, 2013


We present our study of how quickly the US goverment departments and agencies are able to update their websites in response to an order. President Obama signing HR 2775 into law ended the Govt. Shutdown which had started on Oct 1, 2013. We do not expect a large and complex set of organizations that constitute the US Government to update their websites immediately after the signing of the bill, or even the beginning of the first business day after the shutdown had ended. We found that 4% of the US websites took longer than one business day to update after the shutdown ended, four websites taking eight days to update.

Key Results

The following graph shows when the 240 government shutdown or partially-shutdown websites we tracked became operational, i.e., they removed the messages saying the website is not available due to the shutdown.

The red line indicates the official time President Obama signed HR 2775 into law to end the government shutdown. The data shows that 96% of the websites were updated within a day of the end of the shutdown. Two government websites became operational one day later, four government websites become operational four days later, and two government websites took eight days to become operational.

The following graph shows the rate at which the US websites became operational starting the wee hours of October 17, 2013 into the evening of October 17, 2013. Between 0800 and 1200 hours on October 17, 2013, 55% of the websites became available. We also found that several websites were updated (the points to the left of the red line) in anticipation of the President signing the bill.

Methodology and Data

We obtained a list of 414 websites for the departments and agencies of the US federal government from the website. We also collected the list of top 500 government websites from Alexa Top Sites service, filtered out the state government websites resulting in 141 links to federal government websites. Then, we merged these two lists to come up with 555 websites to track. Out of these 555 websites, 246 websites were shutdown or partially shutown. The remaining 284 websites did not display any shutdown related messages. We downloaded the content of all 555 websites every minute starting October 15 19:20 till October 25 14:46 (about 10 days). We also captured visual snapshot of the sites using NirSoft SiteShoter v1.42 once a day for 10 days for manual inspection and validation. At the end of the project, we had collected 829 GB of data capturing the look of the websites and the network performance metrics while accessing these websites during those 10 days.


The Government shutdown of September 2013 provided us an opportunity to measure how quickly IT departments in all the departments and agencies of the US Government would be able to respond to a bill signed by the president. We found that the websites were updated relatively quickly after the shutdown was lifted, most websites within the first business day after the shutdown ended. Such an expediant website update is remarkable considering the size and complexity of the US government.

Research Team

Shengrong Yin, Hessam Mohammadmoradi, Dong Han, Anirup Dutta, and Omprakash Gnawali

Networked Systems Laboratory at the University of Houston, Computer Science Department.


Last updated: November 2, 2013