White House issues guidance on “technology neutral” IT acquisition

Victoria Espinel, the White House intellectual property enforcement coordinator, wrote a blog post providing guidance to federal agencies on making technology neutral IT procurement decisions.

Each year, the U.S. Government spends almost $80 billion dollars buying information technology (IT); the software, computer equipment and network devices that help the Government run efficiently. It is important that those purchases be fair, neutral and based on an objective assessment of relevant criteria. To ensure that the agencies and the public are aware of our policy, today U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy Dan Gordon and I issued a statement to Senior Procurement Executives and Chief Information Officers reminding them to select IT based on appropriate criteria while analyzing available alternatives including proprietary, open source and mixed source technologies.

Aliya Sernstein, over at NextGov, extracted an interested headline from the guidance: “Kundra encourages open source.” Getting to that conclusion from the memo in question, embedded below, might be a stretch, though it is notable that a document signed by the United States chief information officer specifically said that agencies should “analyze alternatives” that include open source.

One key phrase in the memo gives a bit more insight here, in terms of the acquisition process: should “selecting suitable IT on a case-by-case basis to meet the particular operational needs of the agency by considering factors such as performance, cost, security, interoperability, ability to share or re-use, and availability of quality support.”

Open source software has both competitive advantages and disadvantages in those areas.

Here’s the memo from CIO.gov:

Technology Neutrality

Possibly related: “Google wins: Interior forbidden to award noncompetitive contract to Microsoft” [Federal Computer Week]

And no, this isn’t the only outlet to wonder about that link: read Nancy Scola over at techPresident on the White House reminder to be technology neutral:

(So why the memo, and why today? It’s not entirely clear yet, but a smart source points out a related news item in the space: yesterday Google won a preliminary injunction in a case where it had argued that the U.S. Department of the Interior had inappropriately geared a nearly $60 million contract for cloud-based email and collaboration software tools to fit only Microsoft’s proprietary products. Again, though, we’re indulging in a bit of speculation here, and it’s worth pointing out that Google’s revelant products aren’t themselves open-source.)

By the way, if you’d like to stay instantly up on such developments, you might try following Kundra’s new Twitter feed. He’s only tweeted three times thus far, but once was an indeed a pointer to this memo. “Open source vs proprietary?,” he posted. Follow @VivekKundra here.

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.


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