Pentagon Launches First Code.Mil Open Source Project

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U.S. Digital ServiceThe Pentagon’s new Code.Mil initiative with Github launched its first project this week hoping coders and developers will help them develop a viewer for the Manual for Courts-Martial — a key military legal document.

Developers and coders can find the new project on GitHub’s site here.

The Defense Digital Service is leading the initiative as the new innovation agency looks to open source more of the military’s code. A common practice in the commercial sector, the Defense Department has not previously open sourced code for a variety of reasons.

However, the Defense Department sees open sourcing as an opportunity to tap into developers eager to tackle a new project. The Code.Mil initiative comes after quite a bit of success from the Hack the Pentagon program, also led by the Defense Digital Service.

One of the most surprising parts of the Hack the Pentagon program was the level of interest from white hat hackers. Many military officials worried no one would take part. Instead, hackers discovered plenty of vulnerabilities in common defense websites before they could be attacked.

In fact, developers and coders can expect many more projects as the head of DDS expects open sourcing to be a key cog of the future of the Defense Department’s digital strategy.

“The reason that Defense Digital Service is so interested in this is that we believe that the use of open source software within the mission of the Department of Defense is essential to our longterm success,” DDS Director Chris Lynch told FedScoop reporter Samantha Ehlinger at SXSW.

A key to the success of this program will be the legal approach and DDS knows this. When Code.Mil was announced last month, DDS asked for feedback. And based on the feedback received, DDS is changing their approach, according to FedScoop.

“The feedback that we got was contract law was a little confusing, that it was a little different, people had a lot of questions about it,” DDS General Counsel Sharon Woods told FedScoop.

Woods further explained how it will work legally.

“The original work written by federal government employees is in the public domain, which is standard, but we’re focusing now on the contribution process, so for contributors that actually have copyright, their contributions will be copyrighted and licensed under the license that we have associated with the project,” she said to FedScoop.

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