What gives ONC the authority to run challenges?
In January of 2009, President Obama directed OMB to issue an Open Government Directive [PDF - 86 KB] to prompt executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. The Directive specifically calls upon executive agencies to use innovative methods such as prizes and challenges to obtain ideas from and to increase collaboration with the public, including those in the private sector, non-profit, and academic communities.
In January of 2011, President Obama signed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 [PDF - 300 KB]. Section 105 of the Act provides Federal departments and agencies with the authority to plan and execute challenges and competitions, and specifically authorizes the use of appropriated funds for these purposes. In his updated Strategy for Innovation, President Obama called on all federal agencies to increase their use of prizes and challenges to mobilize America's ingenuity to solve some of our nation's most pressing challenges.