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.

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