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    What are the benefits to the USG by purchasing source code and software design documents for systems that the USG will be responsible for contracting and testing future software updates? Should source code and documentation be purchased during the acquisition of a new system? Any help or guidance would be appreciated.


    Answer

    It depends even though as you state the USG would better understand how the system embodied the original requirements along with any updates throughout a system’s lifecycle.  Deciding whether to purchase source code and other technical documentation depends on a Business Case Analysis (BCA).  Even if a buying command expects to use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products which many contractors do (to include both hardware and software), the decision to buy the data rights might be fully justified. As a cautionary note, integrating COTS products for military use creates certain dependencies, especially from a systems engineering perspective.  For example, what specific system (or subsystem) functions have been allocated to the COTS products that the system needs to operate? If the COTS product manufacturer goes out of business or decides to no longer produce the product, is there (or will there be) a suitable replacement that meets all form, fit and function requirements? If not, can a depot remanufacture the product, or is (or will there be) a replacement system on the horizon that makes the original COTS product(s) obsolete? In general, by purchasing the data rights, the USG has more flexibility on a number of fronts:  It secures the prospects for future competition if and when a systems faces any major updates and/or life-extensions which is more common than ever on the last 30 years.  It also reduces the risks to the USG if a COTS product needs to be remanufactured by a depot for the same reasons stated earlier.  Since software is becoming one of the costliest system drivers, it’s also becoming clearer that purchasing the software data rights and associated technical data might just be the best risk mitigation of all in the long run.

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