(To the right, current joint chief chair Admiral Mike Mullen. Salute, maggot.)
Open source requires a do it yourself (DIY) attitude, and our military does not have one. The habits of procurement, buy not make, were ingrained long before Dick Cheney ever took the reins at Halliburton Corp.
Say you are building a house, and face a choice between going to Home Depot and hiring a crew or just signing a contractor. The first choice costs less money, but the second may lead to a better built house.
That's the nice way of putting it.
Or look at it from a General's perspective. You can sign contracts for parts or bigger contracts for systems. The latter course is not only easier, it makes you a virtual Congressman, subject to the same pleasures and temptations.
After a long career spent doing, simple buying is a better gig.
So the Pentagon buys systems, and when it needs something done it contracts out. That's the mentality.
A proprietary system can be managed easily under a contract. No one in the military need worry about how it's built or what it does. So those skills atrophy, disappear.
Then open source comes along. While there are some vendors, like IBM, which offer a soup-to-nuts "we'll handle it" approach with open source components, procurement officers don't see the advantage. IBM absorbs the cost savings as profit.
To really take advantage of open source you need IT experts who can do their own programming and de-bugging. Those skills are in short supply within today's military.
The whole idea of open source and the military opens up a broader debate about make-or-buy decisions, one with big implications not just for the budget but for how we run the Defense Department.
That's a debate politicians and advocates may be happy to have. With two wars to fight, and more possibly on the way, it's one the military would rather put off.
But for how long?