About the Coalition of Enterprise Open Source Software in Government (CEOSSG)
Open source software (OSS) has fundamentally changed the way that information technology (IT) is developed and utilized. With a community devoted to developing and improving IT in a free and transparent manner, OSS is accelerating the pivot away from closed-source, proprietary software that once defined the IT industry.
While The General Service Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are promoting the adoption and utilization of OSS on a government-wide basis, there appears to be a bias in favor of Free OSS (FOSS) to the exclusion of Enterprise Open Source Software (EOSS) solutions. The Coalition for Enterprise Open Source Software in Government (CEOSSG) was established to educate public officials on the differences between FOSS and EOSS, and document how EOSS vendors are frequently excluded from federal acquisitions in favor of Free OSS. A key objective of CEOSSG is to highlight to federal IT policy and acquisition stakeholders in Congress and the Executive Branch that the labor costs of modifying “free” community-based OS solutions so that they scale and are compliant with federal information security standards are usually never considered before a purchasing decision is made. This approach, which is out of compliance with applicable rules in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), deprive EOSS vendors, who have invested their own capital to ensure their OS solutions are saleable and compliant with all federal regulations, a fair opportunity to compete. This concern is at the heart of why CEOSSG was established.
CEOSSG is comprised of senior executives and industry thought leaders from the open source software industry and focused on expanding the utilization of open source solutions in the public sector. Enterprise Open Source Software (EOSS) is used throughout the federal government and provides a cost effective and secure Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) alternative to more expensive and less secure Government Off The Shelf (GOTS) open source solutions.
Red Hat’s Gunnar Hellekson recently observed, “(i)t’s especially important to distinguish between open source products, which are maintained and supported by a company, and open source projects, which are maintained by a community. This distinction was enshrined 15 years ago in OMB circular A-130 which directed the federal government to, “(a)cquire off-the-shelf software from commercial sources, unless the cost effectiveness of developing custom software to meet mission needs is clear and has been documented.” In their quest to save money by acquiring “free OS solutions, federal IT stakeholders pay little or no attention to the life cycle costs of developing custom OS software which are usually much more expensive than acquiring EOSS COTS solutions.
Specific objectives of the coalition’s advocacy strategy will include:
- Educating Members of Congress and Federal IT stakeholders on the distinctions between FOSS and EOSS and highlighting the cost and security advantages of EOSS, especially when compared to GOTS OS solutions
- Highlighting how the federal acquisition workforce needs to be better trained in managing the acquisition of open source software. The Coalition will specifically highlight how agency procurement officials usually do not account for the labor costs of modifying “free/community-based OS solutions so that they scale and are compliant with federal information security standards when acquiring an OS-based solution.
- Documenting how federal agencies frequently use unsupported, community OS solutions in a “pennywise and pound-foolish” approach that creates cyber vulnerabilities and related technical risks”
- Ensure that the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration, in their oversight of the $90 Billion federal IT budget and federal IT acquisition policy, ensure that federal agencies are providing EOSS vendors with a fair opportunity to compete when a formal or informal FOSS acquisition occurs (i.e., when a government or commercial systems integrator bids on a government solicitation to “productize” FOSS).
- Work with the Federal Chief Information Council to ensure that the EOSS applications are running are fully up to date in terms of their security patches.
- Cultivate Hill champions of OSS and leverage these relationships in support of CEOSSG’s advocacy priorities