Running Open Technology Development Projects


Posted: March 11, 2016 | By: John Scott

How to get started” is a question continually asked. This article lays out the basic framework for running an open technology development (OTD) military focused project.  The first section describes how to establish an OTD program once a project proposal has been accepted.  The next sections discuss establishing a technical infrastructure for collaboration, communication issues, technical management/?technical criteria, and continuous delivery.   Much more information on how to do this from an open source software (OSS) project perspective can be found in chapter 2 of [Fogel2009].

Step 1: Determine reuse options

First, search for existing OSS projects that have relevant functionality.  A simple web search of the string “open source software” plus a desired capability will often turn up something close to what you need.  Also review OSS repositories sites such as,,, and Even if there is nothing available to use directly, there might be piece-parts that can be integrated or useful ideas.

Opportunistic adoption of OSS is important because technological innovation is primarily occurring on the unclassified internet, not within the military sphere.  Most of the piece-parts for any given project are already out there, and there is an expanding wave front of OSS software that can rapidly advance the needs of government projects.  Careful evaluation, selection, and participation in these external projects is the most effective way to evolve capabilities over the life cycle of a government program.  Existing Government Off The Shelf (GOTS) software may quickly become obsolete once there is a public Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) project (including an OSS project) with the same goal.

If you have software that was previously developed as part of a government contract, determine if you have sufficient intellectual rights to release or transition the software as an OTD project. Many government programs have existing technology that was originally funded by the government.  If the intellectual rights over those technologies is inadequate or cannot be determined, the government should consider negotiating with the appropriate integrators/vendors to release the source code under less restrictive data rights sufficient for an Open GOTS (OGOTS) or OSS project.  An easy way to do this is to simply fund the conversion process for the contractor(s).

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