Congress is working on the defense authorization bill right now and they expect for the Senate to start debate next week. Senator John McCain is the author of the Senate version of the bill and he has allowed liberals in the Senate to bury a provision that would dramatically hurt national security.
Right now, tech companies can contract with the federal government without handing over the source codes for the software they license to the government. The “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018” would change that practice. Technology firms would have to hand over the source codes to the federal government as a price of admission to do business with the Department of Defense.
Nobody will be more happy than North Korea, Russia and China that the United States is going to use open source technology as part of the software infrastructure that protects America at the Pentagon. This will also help companies in nations that tolerate IP theft to steal American technology and copy it. This provision is hostile to the idea of intellectual property and sounds more like socialism than free market capitalism, because the end result of this provision, if it were to become law, would be for the government to take over the function of creating new software.
Think about it this way, source codes are the most valuable commodity of a software company. It is likely that the best and brightest that produce software will not want to hand over their intellectual property to the U.S. government, who will then provide that information to the world. The Pentagon will then not have the most innovative, effective and secure products, therefore making America less safe.
When source codes are handed over to the federal government, the IP will be subject to greater risk because the source code of all the software would be centralized with a government that has been terrible with securing information. Source codes are much more secure when dispersed and not all in one government repository where the bad guys can more easily access the valuable IP.
Ironically, one of the few remaining communist nations in the world, China, demands source doe for participation in Chinese markets. Why a free market nation like the United States would give China and Russia an excuse to demand source codes as a price of entry into these nations makes no sense.
The provisions are buried in Sections 881-6 of the bill in a section titled “Development and Acquisition of Software.” These are policy proposals that have stayed in place from the Obama Administration and pushed by arch liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Liberals want to put all of IP in open source status because they don’t have respect for private property, whether it be real property or intellectual property. They want the government to have control of the IP rather than the creators of the intellectual property. It is a socialist idea – plain and simple.
For a Republican controlled Congress to put IP at risk by forcing the transfer of privately developed source code to a federal government that has a hard time to keep secrets is unwise. For this same Congress to expose our software being used by the Pentagon to bad actors like ISIS and North Korea is criminal. We have to hope Congress strikes this provision from the Senate version of the defense authorization act and restores some sanity and safety.