Developers will be able to review and collaborate on the Defense Department’s unclassified code through its new Code.mil initiative.
Launched Thursday, the project shepherded by the Pentagon’s digital fix-it team the Defense Digital Service includes an online repository through GitHub, but there aren’t any projects on there just yet. The team will open-source some of its projects after finalizing in March a licensing agreement that it has now released as a draft for public comment.
The initiative “is a direct avenue for the department to tap into a worldwide community of developers to collectively speed up and strengthen the software development process,” according to the announcement. “In exchange, DoD program code hosted on GitHub will be open and available for individuals to reuse and repurpose for personal and public projects.”
The new initiative is one of many ways the Defense Digital Service has been trying to increase the Pentagon’s outreach. DDS also crafted the new open data strategy showcased on data.mil and launched the department’s first bug bounty.
This project is somewhat complicated by the fact that federal-employee-written code typically does not carry copyright protections. That makes it difficult to attach open source licenses, according to the release, but the initiative “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.”
“We’ve drafted LICENSE-agreement.md so the DoD can use widely adopted licenses, even where we may not have copyright,” the DOD explains on Code.mil. “This lets us harness the depth and breadth of talent in the open source and free software communities to improve our software and make our code available for public use.”