The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the launch of Code.mil, an open source initiative to encourage collaboration between federal programmers and the public on code written in support of federal projects, and to offer code to the public for their use.

By inviting the public to review and improve ongoing projects, the DoD hopes to access untapped resources of private citizens while at the same time offering the tools created by government for public use.

The federal government also intends to create a “network of peers” in the developer community, to create a collaborative and connected group that will “share knowledge, and make connections in support of DoD programs that ultimately service our national security.”

The project is spearheaded by the Defense Digital Service (DDS), the Pentagon’s digital projects oversight group. GitHub will provide the open source platform where interested parties may review and comment on code written by federal employees for use in a variety of projects.

The projects have yet to be posted, however. Currently, the DoD is looking for input regarding the legal ramifications of attaching an open-source license to its code. The problem, as stated, is that code written by federal employees cannot be copyrighted, which makes the application of existing open source protocols to this code difficult.

The DoD has written a draft license agreement that uses the contract law from the Defense Open Source Agreement to add licensing to DoD projects, which can then be referenced to make the projects open source. Sharon Woods, DDS legal counsel, said that the group hopes that “this agreement will serve as a bridge so we can use widely adopted open source licenses even without U.S. copyright protections.”

Projects that have been undertaken by the DoD include communications, logistics, education and healthcare that are deployed not just in the United States, but also globally.

The Department of Defense has posted a draft of the licensing agreement on GitHub, and is currently seeking input from the legal and developer communities before it is finalized in March. Once a working open source licensing plan is approved, live federal software projects will be posted on GitHub for review and evaluation, and use, by the public at large.