White House Seeks Feedback on GitHub for Government-Wide Open Source Software Policy

photo credit: The White House Washington DC - (license)
photo credit: The White House Washington DC(license)

The White House is calling for developers to comment on its proposed draft for a Government-wide Open Source Software policy. In the request for public comment, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) outlined two major goals for the new policy:

This policy requires that, among other things: (1) new custom code whose development is paid for by the Federal Government be made available for reuse across Federal agencies; and (2) a portion of that new custom code be released to the public as Open Source Software (OSS).

The pilot program proposed in the draft policy would require “covered agencies to release at least 20 percent of their newly-developed custom code, in addition to the release of all custom code developed by Federal employees at covered agencies as part of their official duties.”

Specifically, the government is asking for feedback on a list of considerations regarding releasing custom code as open source. A few examples include the following:

  • To what extent is the proposed pilot an effective means to fuel innovation, lower costs, benefit the public, and meet the operational and mission needs of covered agencies?
  • Would a different minimum percentage be more or less effective in achieving the goals above?
  • To what extent could this policy have an effect on the software development market? For example, could such a policy increase or decrease competition among vendors, dollar amounts bid on Federal contracts, or total life-cycle cost to the Federal Government?
  • What opportunities and challenges exist in Government-wide adoption of an open source policy?

Encouraging developers to produce reusable code to be shared across federal agencies could significantly lower development costs and improve government efficiency. It could also promote transparency of the code quality produced by vendors and employees.

After the embarrassing debacle of Healthcare.gov, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s good to see government embracing open source in an expanded capacity.

How to Contribute

You can join the conversation by participating in discussions on the source code policy GitHub issues or by logging a new issue. The White House even welcomes changes and line edits to the policy content via pull requests.

Anyone can contribute on GitHub to help shape the federal source code policy until April 11, 2016. At that time public contributions will be closed and the White House will analyze feedback while creating the final policy.

7 Comments


  1. Interesting directives.

    Not sure about the 20% part. Could you just lend me 20% of your computer to type on? I’d like 20% of your telephone to call my sister.

    It would be better if whole applications were released as open source than bits and pieces of different projects. At least a discussion has been started about the role of government in making code paid for by the public available to the public.

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  2. The USA is fast becoming the model for how to reform government IT. Hopefully other countries follow track soon.

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    1. If your government IT is that dysfunctional you need to go public in order to figure out a ways to make all parties cooperate with each other, then open source and git are not your most important problems.

      To be fair the US government structure is probably very unique and probably not really comparable to other countries.

      It is not even the first time US government got into open source, IIRC SELinux is/was sponsored by the NSA and so was TOR.

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      1. @mark k. You need a vacay bruh.

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  3. Sharing 20% of the code because Healthcare.gov was so successful we should use that same model for private sector. Please tell me they are kidding. The government would benefit more if they used 20% of the current open source programs from the private sector to use for the government.

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