US federal agencies to publish 20% custom software as open source

By: Adrian Offerman


Over the next three years, US federal agencies will be required to publish at least 20 percent of their newly-made custom software as open source. This requirement is part of a pilot established by the Federal Source Code Policy published last week by the President’s Executive Office.

The Policy recognises that there is no consistent manner for federal agencies to make their source code available on a government-wide basis. This may result in duplicative acquisitions for substantially similar code and an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. The Policy aims to reduce duplicative costs as well as vendor lock-in.

Additional benefits

At the same time, the US government acknowledges that making the source code available to the public can bring additional benefits. People and companies can implement the code for their own purposes and publish improvements to the software. This collaborative atmosphere can make it easier to conduct software peer review and security testing, re-use existing solutions, and share technical knowledge.

According to the Policy, the US federal government annually spends more than USD 6 billion (EUR 5.4 billion) on software, in more than 42,000 transaction. The federal agencies will also have to collect specific data on their new custom software projects, providing the means to measure the performance and returns of this policy.

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