On January 7 the Office of Management and Budget issues a memo reminding US federal agencies of the importance of technology neutrality in procurement.
The one-page memo reminds that
[…] policies are built around the use of merit-based requirements development and evaluation processes that promote procurement choices based on performance and value, and free of preconceived preferences based on how the technology is developed, licensed or distributed. In the context of developing requirements and planning acquisitions for software, for example, this means, as a general matter, that agencies should analyze alternatives that include proprietary, open source, and mixed source technologies. This allows the Government to pursue the best strategy to meet its particular needs.
Although there is probably no direct connection, it is difficult not to relate this memo to the recent decision by a federal judge to stop the procurement by the US Interior Department of a Microsoft email solution. It is certainly wise to remind agencies that procurement needs to be open and technology-neutral. Without any reference to the DOI case, there will be cases where technology-neutrality lead to higher costs and changes in risk profiles: in fact vendor lock-in is a risk, but so is a change of architecture or a new licensing model.
Public procurement must be driven by value for money, and while all available options need to be examined, choice must be based on a clear and transparent assessment of benefits, costs and risks.