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S. 2749 (116th): DOTGOV Act of 2019


Some end with “.com,” “.org,” or “.us,” but should all state and local government websites end with “.gov” instead?

Context

Virtually all federal and state government websites use the “.gov” domain ending. Not all of them, however — Florida’s official website, for example, is MyFlorida.com.

Neither GovTrack.us, nor our offshoot websites including GovTrackInsider.com and Impeachment.Guide, end with “.gov,” intending to indicate that they are not government websites. Similarly, while WhiteHouse.gov has always been the president’s official website, WhiteHouse.com was famously a pornographic website from 1997 to 2005.

Yet there are more than 89,000 local governments, and their websites do not all use “.gov” — particularly for the mid-sized or smaller towns. That’s important because “.gov” is one of the safest domains and less vulnerable to cyberattacks, hacking, or impersonations.

What the bill does

The DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act would help local governments who would to create a “.gov” website or switch their existing website accordingly.

The bill would allow such a change to be deducted under the federal Homeland Security Grant Program, making it more affordable. The Department of Homeland Security would also be required to develop an outreach program for local governments, to better get the word out.

It was introduced in the Senate on October 30 as bill number S. 2749, by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill would help potentially tens of thousands of smaller towns, counties, and municipalities from cyberattacks, malware, and viruses.

“Local governments are responsible for safeguarding citizens’ personal data, from Social Security numbers and credit card information to detailed medical records,” Sen. Peters said in a press release. “This important legislation will help protect the personal information of people in Michigan and across the country from hackers looking to take advantage of gaps in our cybersecurity defenses.”

“The passage of this bill will ensure state, local, tribal, and territorial governments have greater access to a trusted domain and Department of Homeland Security resources, ultimately increasing the security of their websites in today’s ever-changing cyber threat landscape,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said. “It will also help Americans and businesses know which government websites are legitimate and better prevent them from distributing sensitive information.”

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any explicit statements of opposition.

Odds of passage

The bill has attracted five bipartisan cosponsors: three Republicans and two Democrats. On November 6, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved it by a unanimous voice vote.

It now goes to a vote in the full Senate. Passage seems likely, considering the unanimous committee vote.

Last updated Nov 22, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Oct 30, 2019.


DOTGOV Online Trust in Government Act of 2019 or the DOTGOV Act of 2019

This bill transfers the .gov internet domain program from the General Services Administration to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and provides support for expanding .gov usage among public entities.

The bill directs CISA to make .gov domain name registration services, as well as supporting services, generally available to any federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government entity, or other publicly controlled entity that complies with the policies for registration developed by CISA.

CISA shall inventory all host names and services in active use within the .gov domain and provide the data to domain registrants at no cost. CISA shall develop and submit to Congress (1) a strategy to utilize information collected for countering malicious cyber activity; (2) an outreach strategy to local, tribal, and territorial governments and other publicly controlled entities to inform and support migration to the .gov domain; and (3) a .gov domain security enhancement strategy and implementation plan.

The bill allows recipients of State Homeland Security grants or Urban Area Security Initiative grants to use grant funds for migrating any online service to the .gov domain.