The Pentagon could be responsible for 5,000 publicly accessible websites. Or it could be less than half that. Nobody appears to know for sure.
Speaking at a town hall event for employees of the military's main public affairs organization, Army Col. Paul Haverstick said late last month that the number of Pentagon and military branch websites is "undefined."
"Between 2,000 and 5,000 is the estimate," said Haverstick, acting director of the Defense Media Activity, on April 24. "We have less than a third of that."
DMA runs some 825 public websites and blogs for the military, its website says. That includes the Defense Department's flagship public site and the official sites for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army Reserve, National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Headquartered at Fort Meade, Md., the agency is charged with delivering content to the public and members of the military via all types of media. It also runs the Armed Forces Network's television and radio programming and trains public affairs personnel.
Many units, bases and agencies within DoD have public websites -- some with little content other than contact information and biographies of unit leaders -- and DMA operates a service for hosting public sites and managing their content, designed around its public affairs mission.
About three-quarters of the organizations using the service belong to the Air Force and Marine Corps. Aside from the Army Corps of Engineers, few other Army organizations appear to use the service and less than 40 sites or blogs using the service belong to the Navy. Likewise, some large DOD or joint service agencies operate their own public sites.
DMA's portfolio does not include Army Knowledge Online, Move.mil and other sites regularly used by service members.
Facing potential budget and personnel cuts, the agency is looking to focus its mission and may seek to offload responsibility for DOD's public website infrastructure, Haverstick's briefing suggested.
DMA declined to clarify or provide further details about those plans. They were "concepts and potential directions that are not solidified and approved," Karen Nowowieski, a spokeswoman, said via email.
An unlisted YouTube video of the event, a link to which Nowowieski had sent to the DMA workforce via email late last month, was no longer available Wednesday.
DMA has discussed defining DoD's public web presence with the Pentagon's chief management officer, Haverstick said, and is considering contracting for an assessment of the thousands of sites.
"There's just that many and we don't know where to begin," he said. "It's an elephant and we're the size of a fly."