US military to open its own GitHub repository

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US military to open its own GitHub repository

Prepares for unusual legal obstacles.

The US Department of Defense plans to set up an open source code repository on GitHub in an effort to increase its appeal to potential hires in the dev community.

Defense, driven by its digital services arm DDS, is working to stand up Code.mil, which will eventually become home to a range of federal software tools created by the US federal government.

“With Code.mil, DoD can access a depth and breadth of technical skill previously underutilised while offering software tools created by the government for free public use,” it said.

The department says it wants to “tap into a worldwide community of developers to collectively speed up and strengthen the software development process”.

In exchange, it will make unclassified code produced by the DoD freely available to the open source community.

But DoD will have to overcome more than the usual roadblocks before Code.mil goes live, due to the unique circumstances of US federal agencies which don’t enjoy the same copyright protections as other organisations - upsetting the usual operation of open source licences.

In a statement the department said it was “experimenting” with different legal options in consultation with the Open Source Initiative and the Free Software Foundation.

It wants to add contract provisions to its Defense Open Source Agreement to enable it to add commonly used licenses to DoD software projects.

“We want to better incorporate the norms of the open source and free software communities into the department,” Defense Digital Service lawyer Sharon Woods said.

“We hope this agreement will serve as a bridge so we can use widely adopted open source licenses even without US copyright protections.”

The department hopes to have finalised its code terms of use by the end of next month, and is inviting feedback from interested stakeholders on its current draft.

The DDS was set up in 2015 to bring some private sector nous to the organisation, and employs digital thinkers on short secondments from companies like Google, Amazon and Netflix.

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