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InfoQ Homepage News US Department of Defense Launches Open Source Effort

US Department of Defense Launches Open Source Effort

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The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the launch of, "an Experiment in Open Source." The objective of the project is to allow "software developers around the world to collaborate on unclassified code written by federal employees in support of DoD projects":

DoD is working with GitHub, an open source platform, to experiment with fostering more collaboration between private sector software developers and federal employees on software projects built within the DoD.

While the US DoD has long utilized open source software as a basic component for development of both classified and unclassified software, this new effort is unique in that it seeks to provide transparent sharing of unclassified software that was developed under DoD contracts.

In the United States, the government owns software that was developed under contracts issued to corporations and individuals. In the past, this has hindered the sharing of unclassified software paid for by the government, often resulting in the government paying multiple contractors to recreate software that delivers the same functionality that was previously accomplished by software developed under prior contracts by different companies.

A difficulty in achieving this objective is licensing. Thomas Claburn notes in the Register that "before open source can ride to the rescue, government programmers and whatever community coalesces around them will need to find a suitable software license to apply to DoD projects." He also notes that "at the moment, the DoD's repo lacks any actual code."

The lack of code at present is intentional (though specific projects are already queued for residence on GitHub). It's due to the licensing issues. The Dod announcement states: is experimenting with a legal pathway of using contract law in the Defense Open Source Agreement to add commonly used licenses to DoD software projects. DDS consulted with the Open Source Initiative and Free Software Foundation on devising a comprehensive approach to both open and free software.

Claburn wonders whether the proposed Defense Open Source Agreement (DOSA) is legal: "Chaim Krause, whose Twitter account identifies him as a civilian employee of the US Army, through GitHub's Issues system questions the claim that the DoD can require software to be released under an arrangement other than public domain." presents a simple Licensing Intent statement. And, it invites developers to consider Contributing to Our Projects. They also provide a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

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