Skip to content
Go to file


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time
Sep 18, 2020
May 28, 2015


CircleCI Maintainability Test Coverage Known Vulnerabilities

Federalist is updated regularly. Join our public chat room to talk to us and stay informed. You can also check out our documentation to learn more.

About Federalist

Federalist helps federal government entities publish compliant static websites quickly and seamlessly. Federalist integrates with GitHub and is built on top of, which uses Amazon Web Services.

This repository is home to "federalist-core" - a Node.js app that allows government users to create and configure Federalist sites.


Partner agencies across the federal government use Federalist to host websites. A few examples include:

More examples can be found at

Setting up a local Federalist development environment

First install these dependencies

Before you start, ensure you have the following installed:

Then follow these steps to set up and run your server

In order to provide a simple development user experience, Federalist has some complexity on the backend. So as part of your local setup, you will need to emulate some of that complexity through the creation steps below. This shouldn't take longer than 15 minutes.

Note: some terminal commands may take a while to process, without offering feedback to you. Your patience will be rewarded!

  1. Clone the 18F/federalist repository from Github and cd to that directory.

Editing the local configuration file

  1. Make a copy of config/local.sample.js and name it local.js and place it in the config folder. You can do this by running cp config/local{.sample,}.js This will be the file that holds your S3 and SQS configurations.

  2. Register a new OAuth application on GitHub. Give your app a name and "Homepage URL" (http://localhost:1337), and use http://localhost:1337/auth/github/callback as the "Authorization callback url".

  3. Once you have created the application, you'll see a Client ID and Client Secret. Open the config/local.js file in your text or code editor and update it with these values:

    passport: {
      github: {
        options: {
          clientID: 'VALUE FROM GITHUB',
          clientSecret: 'VALUE FROM GITHUB',
          callbackURL: 'http://localhost:1337/auth/github/callback'
  4. Register or create a new GitHub organization with a name of your choosing. Then find your organization's ID by visiting<your-org-name> and copying the id into the allowed organizations in config/local.js.

    organizations: [
      99999999 // your org added here

    The organization will need to grant access to Federalist, which can be done:

    • during a first-time login with your GitHub credentials, or
    • in the Authorized OAuth Apps tab in your GitHub Account settings

For 18F/TTS developers: This section is primarily for 18F/TTS developers working on the Federalist project. Before you get started, make sure you have been fully on-boarded, including getting access to the Federalist staging space.

  1. Paste cf login --sso -a -o gsa-18f-federalist -s staging into your terminal window.
  2. Visit to get a Temporary Authentication Code.
  3. Paste this code into the terminal, and hit the return key. (For security purposes, the code won't be rendered in the terminal.)
  4. Type npm run update-local-config to read necessary service keys from the staging environment and load them into a local file called config/local-from-staging.js.

Note that npm run update-local-config will need to be re-run with some frequency, as service keys are changed every time Federalist's staging instance is deployed.

Setting up Docker

  1. Run docker-compose build.
  2. Run docker-compose run app yarn to install dependencies.
  3. Run docker-compose run app yarn create-dev-data and answer its prompts to create some fake development data for your local database.
  4. Run docker-compose up to start the development environment.

Any time the node dependencies are changed (like from a recently completed new feature), docker-compose run app yarn will need to be re-run to install updated dependencies after pulling the new code from GitHub.

Check to see if everything is working correctly

  1. If you've successfully completed all of the steps the Federalist app is now ready to run locally! 🎉
  2. You should now be able to see Federalist running at http://localhost:1337. Local file changes will cause the server to restart and/or the front end bundles to be rebuilt.

Pro tips:

In our Docker Compose environment, app is the name of the container where the Federalist web application runs. You can run any command in the context of the web application by running docker-compose run app <THE COMMAND>.

For example:

  • Use docker-compose run app yarn test to run local testing on the app.
  • Use docker-compose run app yarn lint:diff to check that your local changes meet our linting standards.

Similarly you can run any command in the context of the database container db by running docker-compose run db <THE COMMAND>.

Note that when using docker-compose run, the docker network will not be exposed to your local machine. If you do need the network available, run docker-compose run --service-ports app <THE COMMAND>.

The db container is exposed on port 5433 of your host computer to make it easier to run commands on. For instance, you can open a psql session to it by running psql -h localhost -p 5433 -d federalist -U postgres.

Front end application

If you are working on the front end of the application, the things you need to know are:

  1. It is a React and Redux application
  2. It is built with webpack
  3. It lives in /frontend

To analyze the contents of the front end JavaScript bundle, use docker-compose run --service-ports app yarn analyze-webpack after a build. Then visit to see a visualization of the the bundle contents.


Environment Variables

Here <environment> refers the value set for the APP_ENV environment variable (ie: production or staging.

We have a few environment variables that the application uses. In production, those variables are provided to the application either through the Cloud Foundry environment or through Cloud Foundry services.

To inspect the way the environment is provided to the application in production and staging, look at ./.cloudgov/manifest.yml. To see how the application receives those configurations, looks at config/env/<environment>.js.

The following environment variables are set on the Cloud Foundry environment in the application manifest:

  • NODE_ENV: The node environment where the app should run. When running in Cloud Foundry this should always be set to production, even for the staging environment
  • APP_ENV: The application environment in which the app should run. Valid values are production and staging.
  • LOG_LEVEL: Sets the log level for the app.
  • NPM_CONFIG_PRODUCTION: This should be set to true in Cloud Foundry to prevent Yarn/NPM from installing dev dependencies
  • NODE_MODULES_CACHE: This should be set to true in Cloud Foundry to prevent caching node modules since those are vendored by Federalist
  • APP_NAME: The name of the Cloud Foundry application
  • APP_DOMAIN: The hostname where the application runs in Cloud Foundry
  • NEW_RELIC_APP_NAME: The app name to report to New Relic
  • NEW_RELIC_LICENSE_KEY: The license key to use with New Relic

Secrets cannot be kept in the application manifest so they are provided by Cloud Foundry services. The app expects the following user provided services to be provided:

  • federalist-<environment>-rds: A brokered service that allows the application to use RDS Postgres for its database
  • federalist-<environment>-uev: A user-provided service that provides the application with the secret key to securely encrypt user environment variable; this service provides the following credential:
    • key: The encryption key to decrypt user environment variables
  • federalist-<environment>-env: A user-provided service that provides the application with secrets that cannot be added to manifest.yml b/c that file is under version control; this service provides the following:
    • FEDERALIST_SESSION_SECRET: The session secret used to sign entries in Federalist's session store
    • GITHUB_CLIENT_CALLBACK_URL: The callback URL used for GitHub authentication
    • GITHUB_CLIENT_EXTERNAL_CALLBACK_URL: The callback URL used for external GitHub authentication
    • GITHUB_CLIENT_ID: The client ID used for GitHub authentication
    • GITHUB_CLIENT_SECRET: The client secret used for GitHub authentication
    • GITHUB_WEBHOOK_SECRET: The secret used to sign and verify webhook requests from GitHub
    • GITHUB_WEBHOOK_URL: The url where GitHub webhook requests should be sent
  • federalist-<environment>-sqs-creds: A user-provided service that provides the application with SQS credentials that cannot be added to manifest.yml b/c that file is under version control; this service provides the following:
    • access_key: The AWS access key for SQS queue
    • secret_key: The AWS secret key for SQS queue
    • region: The AWS region
    • sqs_url: The AWS SQS queue URL
  • uaa-client: An instance of's UAA broker to support authentication via SecureAuth. The service binding must include redirect_uris:
    • <host>/auth/uaa/callback
    • <host>/auth/uaa/logout
    • <host>/admin/auth/uaa/callback
    • <host>/admin/auth/uaa/logout

Deploy in CloudFoundry

To deploy to CloudFoundry submit the following: cf push federalistapp --strategy rolling --vars-file "./.cloudgov/vars/${CF_SPACE}.yml" -f ./cloudgov/manifest.yml


When making code changes, be sure to write new or modify existing tests to cover your changes.

The full test suite of both front and back end tests can be run via:

docker-compose run app yarn test

You can also just run back or front end tests via:

docker-compose run app yarn test:server  # for all back end tests
docker-compose run app yarn test:server:file ./test/api/<path/to/test.js> # to run a single back end test file
docker-compose run app yarn test:client  # for all front end tests
docker-compose run app yarn test:client:watch  # to watch and re-run front end tests
docker-compose run app yarn test:client:file ./test/frontend/<path/to/test.js> # to run a single front end test file

To view coverage reports as HTML after running the full test suite:

docker-compose run --service-ports app yarn serve-coverage

and then visit http://localhost:8080.

For the full list of available commands that you can run with yarn or npm, see the "scripts" section of package.json.


We use eslint and adhere to Airbnb's eslint config (with some minor exceptions) as recommended by the 18F Front End Guild.

Because this project was not initially written in a way that complies with our current linting standard, we are taking the strategy of bringing existing files into compliance as they are touched during normal feature development or bug fixing.

To lint the files you have created or changed in a branch, run:

docker-compose run app yarn lint:diff

eslint also has a helpful auto-fix command that can be run by:

docker-compose run app node_modules/.bin/eslint --fix path/to/file.js

Feature Flags

Environment-specific feature flags are supported for both the api and frontend. Flagged features are assumed to be "off" unless the flag exists (and the value is truthy), thus feature flag conditions should always check for the presence or truthiness of the flag, not for it's absence. Environment variables for feature flags MUST be prefixed by FEATURE_, ex. FEATURE_BRING_THE_AWESOME or FEATURE_BRING_DA_RUCKUS.

Api feature flags

Api feature flags are evaluated at runtime and should be created explicitly in the code before the corresponding environment variable can be used. Example:

Given environment variable FEATURE_AWESOME_SAUCE='true'

  1. Add the flag to the known flags:
// api/features.js
const Flags = {
  1. Check if the feature is enabled:
// some code in a child folder of /api
const Features = require('../features');

if (Features.enabled(Features.Flags.FEATURE_AWESOME_SAUCE)) {

Frontend feature flags

Frontend feature flags are evaluated at compile time NOT at runtime, resulting in unused codepaths being exluded from the built code. Environment variables with the FEATURE_ prefix are available globally within the codebase at compile time. This magic is performed by webpack.DefinePlugin and minification.


Given environment variable FEATURE_AWESOME_SAUCE='true'

if (FEATURE_AWESOME_SAUCE === 'true') {

results in



Build Logs

Build logs are streamed directly to the database in realtime so they are immediately viewable by customers in the UI. Every night, build logs for completed builds for the day are archived in an S3 bucket and deleted from the database. This prevents the database from growing unreasonably. The S3 bucket (with assistance from is configured with a lifecycle policy that expires the logs after 180 days in accordance with's policies on log retention.

Lifecycle policy:

  Bucket: <bucket>,
  LifecycleConfiguration: {
    Rules: [
        Expiration: {
          Days: 180
        ID: "Archive all objects 180 days after creation"
        Status: "Enabled",

Initial proposal

Federalist is new open source publishing system based on proven open source components and techniques. Once the text has been written, images uploaded, and a page is published, the outward-facing site will act like a simple web site -- fast, reliable, and easily scalable. Administrative tools, which require authentication and additional interactive components, can be responsive with far fewer users.

Regardless of the system generating the content, all websites benefit from the shared editor and static hosting, which alleviates the most expensive requirements of traditional CMS-based websites and enables shared hosting for modern web applications.

From a technical perspective, a modern web publishing platform should follow the “small pieces loosely joined” API-driven approach. Three distinct functions operate together under a unified user interface:

  1. Look & feel of the website Templates for common use-cases like a departmental website, a single page report site, API / developer documentation, project dashboard, and internal collaboration hub can be developed and shared as open source repositories on GitHub. Agencies wishing to use a template simply create a cloned copy of the template, add their own content, and modify it to suit their needs. Social, analytics, and accessibility components will all be baked in, so all templates are in compliance with the guidelines put forth by SocialGov and Section 508.

  2. Content editing Content editing should be a separate application rather than built into the web server. This allows the same editing interface to be used across projects. The editing interface only needs to scale to match the load from editors, not visitors.

  3. Publishing infrastructure Our solution is to provide scalable, fast, and affordable static hosting for all websites. Using a website generator like Jekyll allows for these sites to be built dynamically and served statically.

Related reading


Public domain

This project is in the worldwide public domain. As stated in CONTRIBUTING:

This project is in the public domain within the United States, and copyright and related rights in the work worldwide are waived through the CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication.

All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0 dedication. By submitting a pull request, you are agreeing to comply with this waiver of copyright interest.


public/images/illo-pushing-stone.png and public/images/illo-pushing-stone@2x.png concepts from "Man Push The Stone" by Berkah Icon, from the Noun Project made available under CC-BY 3.0.


Federalist is a publishing platform for modern 21st Century IDEA websites.




You can’t perform that action at this time.