Recovery.gov May Be Just The Beginning for Open Source in Federal IT

Techmeme wasn’t exactly buzzing with the news that the new Recovery.gov website, which provides information on federal recovery programs, was built using the open source Drupal community content management system.  It made it on to Techmeme, but just barely; only one of the linked sites noted the Drupal connection, the others, including some prominent tech news sites, were only covering the launch of the site.

On the other hand, the Drupal community, including one of the Drupal creators, thought it was pretty damn cool. I also thought it was a pretty big deal for lots of reasons, perhaps formost among them, the site was apparently created quickly by a small team, quite in contrast to other federal IT programs where a court of well connected contractors charge millions, or sometimes billions, for IT projects that seem to fail as often as they succeed.

This anonymous comment on Reddit by someone claiming to have an insiders view of the Whitehouse’s IT of Recovery.gov illustrates how big a deal this is:

i’m on an anonymous acct b/c there may be one or two things i say here that aren’t entirely ready for public disclosure.

the white house is tied to an infrastructure that the bush administration bought shortly before leaving office from a major contractor for millions of dollars (public information based on contracts)

there are high level internal discussions about actually ditching this for drupal to run WH.gov altogether although there are a lot of opponents that come in two camps:

1) technologists that are saying use rails, django, or something else as drupal won’t be secure enough or flexible enough etc etc etc

2) the old guard that is afraid of anything that doesn’t come with a $10 million dollar contract (the existing WH contract is something like 20 mil — for a f*cking website)

needless to say moving from the tools had before the campaign to the ones inside the WH is a step in the wrong direction. recovery.gov being based on drupal is a positive step (technical squabbles with drupal aside) as it is a bucking of the idea that for anything to work it has to be ‘enterprise’

i come from a tech background and despise PHP and know the baggage that drupal or any “CMS” carries, but trust me, the white house launching a .gov domain without paying Boeing (yes.. boeing and other “military” contractors win website contracts over established firms b/c they know how to play the gov’t contracting game) is huge if only because it just saved millions of dollars of taxpayer money (and from a technical angle if you think drupal is bad imagine what kind of CMS Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics could cook up)

people inside the white house are talking to other very smart people in camp 1 and know not to listen to camp 2

Go back and read that again.  Whitehouse.gov was a fricking $20M website.

I’m very cautious in my optimism about the Obama administration, but things like this make me think this really is “change I can believe in.”

One thought on “Recovery.gov May Be Just The Beginning for Open Source in Federal IT

  1. Pingback: Drupal Takes the Whitehouse! « GeekFun

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