The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to increase agency accessibility of custom software developed for the federal government.

Last week OMB released a draft Federal Source Code policy to the public for comment. The proposed policy would “require new software developed specifically for or by the Federal Government to be made available for sharing and re-use across Federal agencies,” according to blog post by Tony Scott, Federal Chief Information Officer.

Scott said the new policy could achieve savings by “avoiding duplicative custom software purchases and promote innovation and collaboration across federal agencies.” The administration expects this program to spur innovation, reduce costs, and result in better service to the public.

This is consistent with the government's policy of “technology neutrality,” Scott stressed.

The draft policy would require new custom code developed and paid for by the government to be accessible to all federal agencies for reuse and the release of some of the new custom code to the public as Open Source Software.

OMB is particularly interested in public comments on releasing custom code as Open Source Software (OSS). The policy would require agencies (in a pilot program) “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.”

In addition, OMB wants comments on how the pilot program might “fuel innovation, lower costs, benefit the public, and meet the operational and mission needs of covered agencies.” OMB also would like feedback on possible advantages and disadvantages of the program, potential metrics that could be used to determine effectiveness of the policy, and opportunities and challenges resulting from an open source policy.

Part of the implementation of this policy will be the initiation (within 90 days of publication) of “Project Open Source.” This will be “an online repository of tools, best practices, and schemas to help covered agencies implement this guidance.” This resource is expected to “facilitate the adoption of good custom source code development and release practices.” Also within 90 days of publication, agencies will update and maintain an inventory of information resources required by OMB Circular A-130. Under the OSS policy, each agency CIO will have to “develop an agency-wide policy that addresses the new requirements and amend or correct agency policies that are not consistent with the new policy.

The period of public comment ends on April 1, 2016. Comment and suggestions can be provided on GitHub “issues” and direct edits may be provided through “pull requests” on “edit this page.” Comments are also accepted via e-mail to the OMB Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer.