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Currently Updated U.S. Government Manual

We are announcing the availability of a new, web-based edition of The United States Government Manual, the official handbook of the Federal Government. The new Manual is posted at: usgovernmentmanual.gov.

The OFR developed the new edition with GPO to provide more timely access to the organizations, programs, and leadership of the Federal government. We will continuously update the new version to reflect changes in Government throughout the year – a marked improvement over the annual snapshot in the printed edition.

Why Reinvent the Manual?

The traditional printed edition, which is also posted to FDsys.gov, has been a staple of reference desks since the OFR became the publisher in 1948. As a special edition of the Federal Register, it is relied upon as an official source of information about the three branches of government. But the annual printing cycle means that current information lags by several months to a year.

So why recreate the Manual at all in view of the quantity of agency information posted on federal and private websites? In some sense it’s all about TMI — too much information. There are plenty of information sources on the web; but what is definitive, and who ensures quality? Agencies organize material on their websites in widely varying ways, and may not update pages consistently. The Government Manual is a central collection p0int for authentic and vital information on all major agencies.  The OFR itself uses it as one of several sources for updating the agency home pages on Federal Register 2.0.

The Freedom of Information Act and Federal Register regulations require agencies to submit updated material to the OFR to provide public access to comprehensive and authoritative descriptions of the organizations, programs, and leadership of the Federal government. The material may be cited by courts of law to establish essential facts about the existence and legal authority of agencies. If there should be an extensive reorganization of the federal government as the President has proposed, we will be collecting and posting the information as soon as it becomes final.

What’s in the New Manual?

The new web-based edition of the Manual presents information in a more standardized format, using extensible markup language (XML).  Uniform data fields make it possible to quickly display changes. Our editors regularly track vacancies and replacements for the top officials in the Obama administration and the U.S. Senators and Representatives of the 112th Congress.  The Manual also contains useful information about quasi-official agencies, international organizations with U.S. membership, and Federal boards, commissions, and committees.

The “Sources of Information” headings list addresses and telephone numbers of each agency for employment, Government contracts, publications, films, and other services available to the public.  In addition, the Manual contains agency organizational charts, definitions of commonly used Federal abbreviations and acronyms, and a detailed section on Federal agencies that have been terminated, transferred, or changed in name since March 1933.

The Printed Edition and Bulk XML Data

The OFR-GPO partnership will continue to print and distribute the annual, paper edition of the Manual to the public and Federal Depository Libraries into the immediately foreseeable future, as long as public demand sustains it. The next hard copy edition is expected to be released by June 2011.  From this point forward, the printed edition will cover a single calendar year, rather than two years.  We will also make XML data available to FDsys to preserve bi-annual snapshots, and to prepare bulk XML data sets for access through Data.gov and FDsys.gov