Source Code Policy

Introduction for Public Comment

The White House committed to adopting a Government-wide Open Source Software policy in its Second Open Government National Action Plan that “will support improved access to custom software code developed for the Federal Government,” emphasizing that using and contributing back to open source software can fuel innovation, lower costs, and benefit the public.1 In support of that commitment, today the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is releasing a draft policy to improve the way custom-developed Government code is acquired and distributed moving forward. This policy is consistent with the Federal Government’s long-standing policy of ensuring that “Federal investments in IT (information technology) are merit-based, improve the performance of our Government, and create value for the American people.”2

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).

We welcome your input on this innovative draft policy. We are especially interested in your comments on considerations regarding the release of custom code as OSS. The draft policy proposes a pilot program requiring 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, subject to certain exceptions as noted in the main body of the policy.3

Considerations regarding releasing custom code as Open Source Software include:

Considerations Regarding Releasing Custom Code as Open Source Software

  • 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?
    • Would an “open source by default” approach that required all new Federal custom code to be released as OSS, subject to exceptions for things like national security, be more or less effective in achieving the goals above?
    • Is there an alternative approach that OMB should consider?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with implementing this type of pilot program? 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? How could it impact new products developed or transparency in quality of vendor-produced code?
  • What metrics should be used to determine the impact and effectiveness of the pilot proposed in this draft policy, and of an open source policy more generally?
  • What opportunities and challenges exist in Government-wide adoption of an open source policy?
  • How broadly should an open source policy apply across the Government? Would a focus on particular agencies be more or less effective?
  • This policy addresses custom code that is created by Federal Government employees as well as custom code that is Federally-procured. To what extent would it be appropriate and desirable for aspects of this draft policy to be applied in the context of Federal grants and cooperative agreements?
  • How can the policy achieve its objectives for code that is developed with Government funds while at the same time enabling Federal agencies to select suitable software solutions on a case-by-case basis to meet the particular operational and mission needs of the agency? How should agencies consider factors such as performance, total life-cycle cost of ownership, security and privacy protections, interoperability, ability to share or reuse, resources required to later switch vendors, and availability of support?

Thank you for taking the time to participate in the development of this Federal policy. We look forward to receiving your comments and working together to solidify our commitment to efficiency and openness in Government.

The public comment period has ended. Thank you for your comments. OMB will analyze all feedback submitted during the public comment period and revise the policy as necessary. All issues submitted during the public comment period will be closed. Please open new issues to start or continue any further discussion. The proposed guidance is now open for public comment on this page. The public comment period will last 30 days, closing on April 11, 2016. The public comment period has been extended by 7 days. The new deadline for public feedback is 11:59pm EDT on April 18, 2016. Following the public comment period, feedback received will be analyzed to help inform the development of any final policy.

Instructions for Public Comment

You may provide feedback in one of three ways. We ask that you do not submit the same comment more than once.

  1. Content suggestions and discussions are welcome via GitHub “issues.” Each issue is a conversation initiated by a member of the public. We encourage you to browse and participate in discussions on existing issues, or start a new conversation by opening a new issue.

  2. Direct changes and line edits to the content are welcome through “pull requests” by clicking “Edit this page” (if prompted, follow the instructions to “Fork this repository and propose changes”). You do not need to install any software to suggest a change. You can use GitHub’s in-browser editor to edit files and submit a pull request for your changes to be merged into the document. Directions on how to submit a pull request can be found here. Pull requests that have already been submitted for the proposed guidance can be found here.

  3. We are also accepting content suggestions or proposed revisions through emails sent to the OMB Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer at sourcecode@omb.eop.gov. Please note that all comments received will be posted publicly here.

Footnotes