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Submission + - Open Source Doesn't Mean Open Opportunity in Government Contracting (

N8F8 writes: "I recently wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional watchdog group, concerning major misrepresentations made by the General Services Administration (GSA) because they write policy statements mandating “Open Source” and “Open Government” but structure programs so they work against open policy and prevent most small businesses from competing.
In particular, the GSA has contracted out a major revamp of all federal procurement websites under a new site called This site is being rolled out in multiple stages, the first of which has been delayed until July. The first stage takes all the sites that list and certify government contractors (CCR, ORCA,etc) and rolls them into one service. Future phases will roll in sites for posting government proposal requests and contractor and subcontractor performance (FBO, FPDS,etc). On the one hand the GSA espouses the use of Open Source so that “code is published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the code without paying royalties or fees” but then they manage projects and make it all but impossible for small companies to compete by:

1) Allowing only businesses under contract to the US Government to access the code, documentation and full test system.
2) Delaying the publishing of any meaningful architecture and interface information for third party developers to review. So far only poorly documented web service information and data samples has been provided. The contractor doing the development has answered a few questions publicly but certainly not to the degree needed for system that will supposedly be fielded next month.
3) Requiring all listed companies to register with Dun and Bradstreet (to the tune of $4 mil/year) so then then have to license this basic company data back and therefore restrict the use of all the data.
4) Requiring obscenely complicated and restrictive licensing/ agreements and requirements to use the system as a service provider. Additionally, these agreements seem change every week, confusing the matter.

I’m doubtful that th GAO or GSA will listen to these comments unless we make some noise. I have some recommendations to correct these misstatements and create a system to fix the problem in future government projects.
1) Put in place a system to allow businesses who have registered to become government contractors through CCR (soon to be sponsored to have access to code and system information needed to create solutions for “open-source” government systems without needing to be specifically contracted to do so. This kind of system would increase the business opportunities, especially for small businesses, and provide more software solutions to the government and other government contractors.
2) Establish a TECHNICAL review of Open-Source/Open Government programs and projects to ensure funded programs, projects and contractors are meeting the stated requirements and agency objectives.
What do you think? How can we get our message heard?"

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