White House releases open source software policy

White House releases open source software policy
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The White House cemented its policy to make federal custom software and websites open source. 

Tony Scott, White House chief information officer, and Anne Rung, chief acquisition officer, distributed a memorandum on Monday.


Open source software — software whose source code is released to the public — offers a variety of benefits for the government. It is generally considered more secure, because it increases the number of helpful volunteers looking for soft spots hackers could barge through. 

For a sizable organization like the U.S. government, it could also potentially reduce duplicative work. When one agency needs something similar to a project already completed, it would no longer require engineering an entirely new program to tweak small details. 

Scott framed the move in terms of government openness. In a Monday blog post, he called the source code generated in public contracts “The People’s Code.”

Draft policy was released for public comment in March. 

The policy advises agencies of the decision process to hire an outside coder rather than buy commercial software, business practices that need to change to support open source, including contracts explicitly permitting it, and when not to use open source, including when it poses a danger to national interest).