Free the Code: The Case for the US Federal Government to Open Source Software as a Default Position

Deborah Bryant (Bryant Group), John Scott (RadiantBlue Technologies, Inc. )
Location: E146

The US federal government spent about 80 billion dollars in 2011 on information technology. Many of those dollars will keep legacy systems in place, a fool’s errand to debate. But what about new investments in Information Technology? IT expenditures are considered inherently in the public interest because they support the deliver of government services. But those public funds might more directly benefit the public if all investments in custom development were done under an open source license.

When our government pays contractors or their own employees to develop custom software, why shouldn’t the code be made available for reuse? Why not take a fresh Best-Practices-in-Innovation page from the our own software industry and make the code available for reuse by a range of interests, from entrepreneurs to academics?

This is certainly not a new idea, but one whose time has finally come. A number of conditions exists which suggest that it is the right time to raise a national debate on opens source and technology investments; ever-increasing economic pressure on the US federal government; an increase in adoption of open source by federal agencies including the adoption of the development model itself; exemplary federal IT projects which have either started or moved to open source as a strategy to flank their program mission and increase the efficacy of the project; an open increase in government- created events and expressions of policy in support of open source as a strategy, thus providing cover for new agencies to wade in to open source; continued maturity in the open source IT ecosystem which is raising the comfort level of the government IT decision-makers.

In this talk, long-time open source advocate in government and OSI director Deb Bryant will take off the gloves and talk about legislators and lobbyists, policy wonks and pundits, bureaucrats and and advocates. She’ll deliver the intellectual and practical fodder you’ll need to get behind what should be a national technology imperative; recycle US federal investments in software into the innovation economy while taking control of their own software destiny.

The talk will cover:

  • Prior efforts to insert open source software mandates in to state and federal legislation
  • The state of open source adoption in federal agencies (operations and policy)
  • Budgetary incentives to making open source the default position for the federal government
  • Open Source in government and the innovation economy
  • Who’s on board for the “Free the Code” movement
  • Localization
  • How to get involved
  • Free the Code Stickers!
Photo of Deborah Bryant

Deborah Bryant

Bryant Group

Deb has earned an international reputation for expertise in the adoption and use of open source software and open development models in the public sector, providing direct guidance and consultation to government on issues like project governance, community models, open source best practices, and open data initiatives.

While at Oregon State University’s Open Source Lab (OSU OSL) she founded the annual Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON) and helped state, local and federal government agencies with their adoption of open source software.

Deb serves on numerous boards with an emphasis on open source as enabling technology – Board Adviser for the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation ; National Steering Committee for Open Source for America ; Board Adviser to Code for America ; Board Adviser to Civic Commons ; Member of Crisis Congress ; Advisory Council Member, Intrahealth International Director for

Deb received an O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) 2010 Open Source Award in recognition of her contribution to open source communities and advocating its use in government.

Deb was elected in April of 2012 to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) board of directors:

Photo of John Scott

John Scott

RadiantBlue Technologies, Inc.

JJohn Scott is the leader in the Defense industry around the comingled issues of technology development and deployment, software, intellectual property and acquisitions. John drafted the U.S. Department of Defense policy for the use of open source software and is often called as an expert in this area. He founded (now co-chairman) Open Source for America, an advocacy group for use of open source software in government and the Military Open Source Software Working Group ( He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University and an MS in Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech and writes about defense software and acquisitions related issues, recently at Defense News entitled “Pentagon Is Losing the Softwar(e).”


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