Put open source to work
July 16–17, 2018: Training & Tutorials
July 18–19, 2018: Conference
Portland, OR

What we code in the shadows: Open source within the NSA and the federal government

11:00am11:40am Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.57, 7 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • FOSS developers and advocates, IT managers, members of large organizations looking to grow in open source, and those working in the policy and legal fields

Prerequisite knowledge

  • General knowledge of open source licensing and community norms

What you'll learn

  • Understand the challenges to embracing open source that large organizations and the federal government face
  • Learn how the NSA is embracing open source


The National Security Agency (NSA) uses a lot of open source software and has made successful contributions to projects like SELinux, REDHAWK, and NiFi. However, it’s traditionally been a challenge for developers to navigate the processes, policy, and mechanics of contributing back to the community. While NSA developers can’t always talk about how they use the software, there is a growing belief that they can build more of it in the open.

Jacob DePriest explains how a group of open source evangelists are trying to strengthen the open source software ecosystem at the NSA and make it a normal part of developers’ jobs. Along the way, Jacob explores some of the key challenges of shifting a large organization in the open source space, including cultural resistance, bureaucratic momentum, and communication, as well as some that are specific to government intelligence agencies, such as limited copyright protection, security sensitivity for public communication, and prepublication review.

Photo of Jacob DePriest

Jacob DePriest


Jacob DePriest is a technical leader and open source evangelist at the National Security Agency, where he is currently focused on improving the policies, processes, and tools at NSA to enable developers to more easily contribute to and participate in the open source software community.