Network Working Group Federal Networking Council
Request For Comments: 1816 August 1995
U.S. Government Internet Domain Names
Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the Internet community. This memo
does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of
this memo is unlimited.
This memo provides an update and clarification to RFC 1811. This
document describes the registration policies for the top-level domain
".GOV". Thus far, Federal Agencies and their subsidiaries have
registered without any guidance. This has resulted in multiple
registrations for Federal Agencies and naming schemes that do not
facilitate responsiveness to the public. This document fixes this by
restricting registrations to coincide with the approved structure of
the US government. The document cited, FIPS 95-1, provides a
standard recognized structure into which domain registrations for
.GOV can be fit. This policy is exactly comparable to that for the
top-level domains. The IANA requires that an organization/country
apply for and get a 2 letter code from ISO/ITU (e.g., US for United
States) for additional top-level registration.
As a side effect, this reduces the number of .GOV level registrations
and reduces the workload on the Internic.
U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERNET DOMAIN NAMES POLICY
The .GOV domain is delegated from the root authority to the US
Federal Networking Council. The .GOV domain is for registration of
US governmental entities on the federal level only. Registrations
for state and local governmental agencies shall be made under the .US
domain in accordance with the policies for that domain.
1) The document "Codes for the Identification of Federal and
Federally Assisted Organizations", FIPS 95-1 (or its successor)
lists the official names of US Government agencies.
A) Top-level entities (e.g., those with codes ending in 00 such as
"1200 Department of Agriculture"), and independent agencies and
organizations (e.g., "National Science Foundation and other non-
indented listings unless prohibited below) as listed in this
document are eligible for registration directly under .GOV.
B) Autonomous law enforcement components of top-level entities
(e.g., "Federal Bureau of Investigation", "Secret Service", "Coast
Guard") are also eligible for registration.
C) Cross-agency collaborative organizations (e.g., "Federal
Networking Council", "Information Infrastructure Task Force") are
eligible for registration under .GOV upon presentation of the
chartering document and are the only non-FIPS-listed
organizations eligible for registration under .GOV.
D) Subsidiary, non-autonomous components of top-level or other
entities are not eligible for separate registration.
International organizations listed in this document are NOT
eligible for registration under .GOV.
E) Organizations listed as "Federally Aided Organizations" are not
eligible for registration under .GOV and should register under
.ORG or other appropriate top-level domain.
F) Organizations subsidiary to "Department of Defense" must
register under the ".MIL" domain via the Defense Data Network
Network Information Center - contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only standard exceptions to these rules are changes to
governmental structure due to statutory, regulatory or executive
directives not yet reflected in the above document. The requesting
agency should provide documentation in one of the above forms to
request an exception. Other requests for exception should be
referred to the Federal Networking Council.
2) A domain name should be derived from the official name for the
organization (e.g., "USDA.Gov" or "Agriculture.GOV".) The
registration shall be listed in the registration database under the
official name (per FIPS 95-1) for the organization or under the name
in the chartering document.
3) Only ONE registration and delegation shall be made per agency.
The .GOV registration authority shall provide registrations on a
first-come first-served basis. It is an individual agency matter as
to which portion of the agency is responsible for managing the domain
space under a delegated agency domain.
4) Those agencies and entities that have multiple registrations under
.GOV may retain them for a maximum of 3 years from the publication
date of this document. Within 6 months after the publication of this
document, one permanent domain must be selected for the agency. The
other (auxiliary) domains must cease further sub-delegations and
registrations at this time. As of 1 year after the publication of
this document, the auxiliary domains will become undelegated and will
revert to the control of the .GOV owner. As of 2 years after the
publication of this document, all registrations in the auxiliary
domains must be mirrored in the permanent domain and those names should
be used where possible. At the 3 year point, all auxiliary domain
registrations will be deleted.
5) Those agencies and entities already registered in .GOV but not
listed in FIPS 95-1 (e.g., DOE labs, state entities) may retain their
registration within the constraint of the single registration rule
(see para 4). No further non-FIPS-listed registrations will be made.
State and local entities are strongly encouraged to re-register under
.US, but this is not mandatory.
 Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 95-1 (FIPS
PUB 95-1, "Codes for the Identification of Federal and Federally
Assisted Organizations", U.S. Department of Commerce, National
Institute of Standards and Technology, January 4, 1993.
 Postel, J., "Domain Name System Structure and Delegation", RFC
1591, USC/Information Sciences Institute, March 1994.
* All current registrations in .GOV are grandfathered and do NOT
require re-registration with the exception of duplicate registrations
for the SAME organization at the same level. E.g., two registrations
which represent the Department of Transportation would be duplicates;
registrations for each of the Department of Transportation and the
FAA would not (The FAA is an autonomous component contained within
* The policy requires resolution of all duplicate registrations
within the next three years.
* Local and state agencies registered under the ".GOV" domain may
remain there. However, they are strongly encouraged to transfer to
the US domain.
* Cross-agency collaborative efforts may register under ".ORG" or
".US" as an alternative to asking for an exception to the policy.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS / ANSWERS
EXISTING .GOV REGISTRATIONS
Q. What are examples of FIPS-95-1 Departments possessing duplicate
top level domain names, and what guidance has been given to them
regarding these names?
A. Examples of FIPS-95-1 Departments with duplicate DNS' include
"STATE.GOV" and "LABOR.GOV". These departments have six months to
determine which name is permanent and which is auxiliary and three
years to drop the auxiliary registration.
Q. Currently, our services are defined as www.cdc.gov, ftp.cdc.gov,
and gopher.cdc.gov. Does this proposal mean that our names will now
be: www.ntb.ops.cdc.phs.dhhs.gov, etc or at a minimum:
www.cdc.phs.dhhs.gov, ftp.cdc.phs.dhhs.gov, and
A. In the case of CDC, NIST, NIH, FDA, and the numerous other non-
FIPS-95-1 agencies registered with ".GOV" domains, there will be no
changes. The existing DNSs of these agencies are grandfathered under
this policy. In addition, the policy effects only the domains
allowed to be registered directly under .GOV; further delegations are
under the control of the subdomain owner. For the above, assuming
the HHS subdomain owner concurs, there is no problem with the HHS
registering "cdc.dhhs.gov" as a subdomain of "dhhs.gov".
Q. How will registrations by Federal Laboratories be addressed?
A. The existing domain names will be grandfathered, i.e., LBL.GOV.
Any new registrations will generally be within the domain of the
sponsoring agency (and subject to that agencies policies), within the
.US domain as a geographic entity, or within the .ORG domain.
Q. What are some examples of state government agencies registered
under ".GOV" domain? Will they need to change their DNS?
A. Examples of cities and states that originally registered under
the ".GOV" include:
WA.GOV Department of Information Services, State of Washington
LA.GOV Bureau of Sanitation, City of Los Angeles
These entities are strongly encouraged to reregister in the ".US"
domain but this is NOT mandatory. No further state and local
agencies will be registered under .GOV.
Q. It is not in anyone's best interest to name things by
organizational boundaries as these things change. Internet domain
names and host names, once defined and used, become so widely
distributed that they become virtually impossible to change.
Organizational structure changes but not the underlying networking
A. The policy does not require organizations to change their names
once established, but individual agency policies may. The DNS system
contains some capabilities to assist in name transition - the CNAME
record provides a capability for cross-domain aliases which can be
used to ease a transition between one name space and another. As
noted in the clarifications, naming and subdomain conventions WITHIN
an agency or department DNS delegation are solely the province of
Q. How can two entities have the same name registered? How does
this apply to NIH.GOV, FDA.GOV, and CDC.GOV, all of which are large
components of DHHS/PHS? NCIFCRF.GOV is a component of NIH. Does it
have to change? I don't understand how a distinction is made if some
are grandfathered and some are not.
A. US-STATE.GOV and STATE.GOV for example. The problem is actually
one entity with two names. NIH.GOV and FDA.GOV represent separate
entities (albeit within DHHS). If there were an NIH.GOV and an NIH-
EAST.GOV for example, NIH would have to eliminate one of them
(probably moving NIH-EAST.GOV to EAST.NIH.GOV).
Q. How much is the taxpayer being asked to spend to alter tens of
thousands of existing computer and telecommunications systems to
support RFC 1816?
A. There are currently less that half-a-dozen duplicate DNS names at
the FIPS-95-1 level which will need to be changed. Given the fact
that this will be accomplished over the next three years, the costs
should be minimal.
Q. An organization maintains a domain name which represents a
cross-agency community, IC.GOV, which represents members of the
intelligence community. As a cross-agency collaborative effort, does
the domain have to be reregistered?
A. The policy states that "Cross-agency collaborative organizations
(e.g., "Federal Networking Council", "Information Infrastructure Task
Force") are eligible for registration under .GOV upon presentation of
the chartering document and are the only non-FIPS-listed
organizations eligible for registration under .GOV." "IC.GOV"
however, is grandfathered since it is an existing domain.
Nevertheless, it would be appropriate to provide a copy of the
chartering document to the FNC for the record. This would ease
future changes to the IC.GOV domain if necessary.
FUTURE .GOV REGISTRATIONS
Q. Top level domains are roughly equivalent to the cabinet-level
agencies identified in FIPS-95-1. What will happen if non-FIPS-95-1
entities apply for the ".GOV" registration in the future?
A. The Internic will use RFC 1816 as guidance and will not grant the
".GOV" to any new entity which is not listed in the FIPS-95-1 or
which has not been granted an exception status by the FNC Executive
Q. Suppose NIH were moved to a new Dept. of Science? Would our
domain name have to be changed?
A. NIH.GOV is grandfathered under the existing policy and would not
change. The "Department of Science" under its own policies may
require you to re-register though.
Q. It is unclear how this will policy will facilitate access by the
public to our information, especially since most of the public
doesn't know our organizational structure or that CDC is part of
A. The policy attempts to avoid confusion as an increasing number of
entities register under the ".GOV" domain and to transfer authority
and responsibility for domain name space to the appropriate agencies
and away from a centralized authority. For facilitating access,
various tools and capabilities are coming into use on the Internet
all the time. Most of these tools provide a fairly strong search
capability which should obviate most concerns of finding resources
based on domain names.
Q. Section 1D of RFC 1816 unfairly constrains the organizations
within the .gov domain in stark contrast to Section 1F which grants
.mil domain organizations full freedom to operate subdomains in any
A. The Federal Networking Council has jurisdiction over the ".GOV"
domain names; ".MIL" domain names fall within the jurisdiction of the
Department of Defense. The .MIL domain has had a written policy
delimiting which DOD agencies get registered directly under .MIL
since about 1987 when the DNS first started to come into use.
Individual agencies under the .MIL domain (e.g., AF.MIL/US Air Force)
are responsible for setting policy within their domains and for
registrations within those domains. This is exactly equivalent to
the .GOV domain - an individual agency (e.g., Treasury.GOV/Dept of
Treasury) may and should set policy for subregistrations within their
Q. Section 1B identifies several law enforcement agencies as being
"autonomous" for the purposes of domain registration. What is the
selection criteria for an "autonomous law enforcement" agency? For
instance, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for law
enforcement as is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
A. The selection criteria for "law enforcement agency" is based on
primary mission. A case could be made for either or both of these
being law enforcement agencies, although the IRS' primary mission is
tax revenue collection and has few armed officers relative to its
size. An "autonomous" agency is one with mission and role distinct
and (possibly) separate from its containing department.
Unfortunately, 95-1 does not do a good job of identifying
"autonomous" entities. In the event of problems with registration,
ask the registrar to get a ruling from the FNC.
Q. How will Domain Name Service resolution on the Net work? Instead
of a root DNS server returning the address of cdc.gov and immediately
directing inquires to our DNS servers, will the root server return a
DNS pointer to DHHS, then DHHS will resolve to PHS, then a fourth DNS
query to get to CDC? This will add unnecessary traffic to the Net.
(example is host.CDC.PHS.DHHS.GOV)
A. The answer is based on how you (personally and agency wide)
configure your servers. First, most servers cache previous answers -
they may have to ask once, but generally remember the answer if they
need it again. Information directly under .GOV will be fairly long-
lived which substantially reduces the requirement to query .GOV
server. Secondly, multiple levels of the DNS tree MAY reside on the
same server. In the above example the information for DHHS.GOV,
PHS.DHHS.GOV and CDC.PHS.DHHS.GOV could all reside on the same
server. Assuming the location of the DHHS.GOV server was not cached,
it would require 2 queries. Further queries would cache the location
of this server and the servers associated with the domains it serves.
Lastly, the individual agencies may structure their domains as they
please. CDC could reside directly under DHHS.GOV as CDC.DHHS.GOV
subject to HHS's own policies.
Security issues are not discussed in this memo.
Federal Networking Council
4001 N. Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
Phone: (703) 522-6410