Military Embedded Systems

Army Research Laboratory releases open source policy to share software


April 07, 2017

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Army Research Laboratory releases open source policy to share software
Image by Army Research Laboratory

ADELPHI, Md. U.S. Army Research Laboratory officials developed an Open Source policy for the sharing ARL-developed software. The goal is to increase collaboration and incentivize innovative ideas among federal and nonfederal research organizations.

The Federal Source Code Policy ensures new custom-developed federal source code be made broadly available for reuse across the federal government. ARL's policy is a concrete implementation of the goals of the Federal Source Code Policy, officials say.

ARL's Open Source policy allows external researchers to analyze and verify software generated by the lab. The policy allows for collaboration between ARL and anyone in the world. Everyone can contribute, and is encouraged to do so, officials say.

The sharing of information occurs on GitHub, a social networking site focused on sharing code. Examples of ARL software include intelligence and autonomy code for robots, simulation code, automation code for laser systems, and network analysis code.

ARL Acting Director Dr. Philip Percent signed the the policy. It is available at:

"Open source as a concept is useful to the government and the Army because it reduces costs, increases the speed of innovation and improves security," says Cem Karan, an ARL computer engineer who, together with the lab's Office of Chief Counsel, has worked to bring this policy to fruition since October 2015.

In addition, the Federal Code Source Policy establishes a pilot program that requires agencies, when commissioning new custom software, to release at least 20 percent of new custom-developed code as Open Source Software for three years, and collect additional data concerning new custom software to inform metrics to gauge the performance of this pilot.

ARL's policy seeks to allow external researchers to analyze and verify software generated by the lab. By doing so, officials hope it will reduce the barriers for others join in potentially groundbreaking research.

"It is increasingly important for ARL to work together with the wider research community to leverage their insights given the increasing pace of technological developments of importance to the Army," says ARL Deputy Chief Scientist Dr. Mary Harper. "By sharing the code we develop with the research community, ARL researchers will not only interest them in our Army-relevant research, but will also enable the outside community to more effectively engage with ARL in working collaboratively on problems of mutual interest."

The policy also supports ARL's Open Campus initiative, a collaborative endeavor with the goal of building a science and technology ecosystem that will encourage groundbreaking advances in basic and applied research areas of relevance to the Army.

Through Open Campus, the global academic community, industry, small businesses and other government laboratories have the opportunity to collaborate with ARL's specialized research staff and unique technical facilities and capabilities.

To ensure that all legal and regulatory requirements are followed, ARL has addressed difficult questions concerning intellectual property such as patents, copyright and trade secrets, questions concerning the Anti-Deficiency Act and regulations within the Army about what types of material may be released.

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