Open Source Software is Common at DHS

It's reliable and integrated throughout the agency’s portfolio, CIO Richard Spires says.

The government should not have an “open source first policy,” Homeland Security Department Chief Information Officer Richard Spires said Wednesday, but added officials should look to open source technology whenever possible.

Spires was speaking at a hearing on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which industry groups have charged has an open source bias. The bill’s author, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has denied any bias and said the bill merely instructs agencies to consider open source software and tools as one possibility.

Open source software is essentially non-proprietary software that’s developed collaboratively through sites such as Github. The developers either aren’t paid for their contributions or are paid by a third party that plans to use a version of the software. Open source software has become increasingly common in government, especially website platforms such as Drupal and WordPress.

Open source is present across much of Homeland Security’s technology portfolio, Spires said, and the agency expects to use more open source in the future. Much of the software is secure enough to be integrated into major systems, he said.