GSA goes open source for its integrated acquisition platform

GSA's Navin Vembar (left) and Munjeet Singh of Booz Allen Hamilton discuss the open sourcing of the agency's Integrated Award Environment. (FedScoop)

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The General Services Administration plans to completely open source its project to build an integrated platform of the federal government’s 10 major IT systems related to awards and acquisition.

Speaking at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Digital Innovation Summit, Navin Vembar, director of IT for GSA’s Integrated Award Environment, detailed the open-sourcing of the IAE and why it should provide more value to federal agencies and taxpayers. The Wednesday event was hosted by FedScoop.

The plan is to make it “open source from the ground up,” Vembar said, who was joined on stage by Munjeet Singh, a vice president of the Strategic Innovation Group at Booz Allen Hamilton, the contractor awarded modernization work on the IAE project late last year. “The platform will be open source, the code that we’re producing that lies on that platform will be open source.”

Singh, who works in lockstep with Vembar on building a microservices architecture for the IAE that can deliver services to users much faster, said the entire project’s open source elements will go live sometime next year, though there are some pieces online already, like a repository of the IAE’s architecture.

“Once we open source this, we’re open sourcing everything — everything that’s not going to violate our [authority to operate] or provide any sort of risk or threat,” Singh said. “So you can take this in your agency and stand up the same microservices architecture the GSA has spent about a year building.”

While the IAE is fairly specific to acquisition, Vembar believes that the way they’ve built it should enable other organizations to pull pieces of it for repurposing.

“Not every solution, not every platform, not every piece of code is actually something every agency needs,” he said. But, he added, “I guarantee you, because I’m seeing it in other places in the GSA itself, that that platform provides a basis that is massively valuable and creates massive shortcuts of time and effort on the part of your organization to get you to an end result.”

On a more philosophical level, Vembar said, it adds value for the average citizen who will likely never interact with the platform.

“We are serving the U.S. taxpayer, we are serving the U.S. citizen,” he said. “And to my view, we have to find a way to open up what we do, because it is actually owned by that taxpayer.”

Coincidentally, the IAE team learned just before the summit Wednesday that the program received it’s authority to operate for its common services platform, which is the platform-as-a-service cloud that all IAE applications will be using to launch their capabilities.

“The end result of this will be a secured platform that will speed applications to delivery as we can leverage a combination of FedRAMP and the platform ATO to cover many of the security controls that individual applications would need,” Vembar told FedScoop.

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Agencies, General Services Administration (GSA), Government IT News, Innovation
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