Will Pentagon take open source seriously?

Will Pentagon take open source seriously?

Summary: What happens to programmers who bring things in from outside -- do they win promotion for initiative or do they get pushed out? That's a more important question.

TOPICS: Open Source

UPDATE: The current forge.mil address requires a PKI credential from the military for access. A public site describing the new forge has been set up at http:www.disa.mil/forge.

Tech Republic's Jack Wallen reports that the Department of Defense has established its own Sourceforge clone at Forge.mil. (This lovely bit of fruit salad is said to denote membership in a military intelligence unit.)

There is much rejoicing going on at Slashdot but I think we have to remain skeptical. Defense is notorious for appearing to support change while the bureaucracy continues to stifle it.

What's most important to note is we're not just talking about security here. Jack reports that the first fruit of this effort is a system for automating the secure configuration of Solaris systems.

We should also note that Defense programmers also have access to the rest of the open source mountain. It's not necessary for the military to run its own molehill in order to gain the public benefits open source provides. Just let its programmers out.

Jack is concerned that access to the new forge is strictly limited, with only 20 projects due to go online in the next six months. That should not be a problem if the new forge encourages use of other forges, and of open source code generally. In theory forge.mil should only be necessary for projects which need special security before being used.

Some Slashdotters are skeptical of the whole story. It's not yet on DefenseLink. It's hosted at a publicly-registered site called forgemil.com. Access procedures seem to be squirrelly.

Point is we're at the start of a process, one milestone down a long road. What happens to programmers who bring things in from outside -- do they win promotion for initiative or do they get pushed out?

That's a more important question to me than whether there is a forge site in the military network.

Topic: Open Source

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  • Its going to happen...

    There is a tremendous surge within the DoD Services and DISA/OSD to not only consume OSS but to also learn how to leverage the OSS dev model within their agencies and throughout the DoD.

    These conversations are at the executive level now...no longer at the program level. Still issues (large and small) to be hurdled, But its going to happen. DoD infrastructure will be default Open Source. Now, what the missiles point at (targeting) and the specific keys for activating those missiles--those are things to protect...and will use methods known only to the DoD.

    So now we have a hybrid model: true OSS (meaning open to everyone) being the default for infrastructure, and govOSS for special features that interop or control corners of the OSS.

    • The more the government can control its own software the better

      Government security should not be at the hands of a single private profit driven entity.
      • The make or buy decision

        So I should put you down for "make." Fair
        enough. But the U.S. military hasn't made
        anything in decades, and doesn't think it can.
    • Thanks for the report

      I suspect you have some inside knowledge, whose
      provenance I won't press you on. But it's good
      to hear that this has gone up the chain of
      command, and that people in charge think open
      source makes sense.

      It's one thing if captains and lieutenants say
      open source. It's another for wearers of fruit
      salad and Presidential appointees to think so.
      • Yes....

        Yes. You're going to see acquisitions/contracts change, you're going to see repositories (like the one DISA just set up) pop up within each service. You going to see a huge push for Reuse.

        The challenges are still high...and your correct in that the gov has not "made" anything themselves in years. But I was on a call last week where high level DoD executives are asking what the new business models for System Integrators should be. They are tired of paying them huge sums of money...multiple times, for similar systems. OSS is one of the ways they can turn this around in their favor.

        Going to be a fun couple years.
  • NSA

    Years ago, the NSA started the ball rolling. The most famous project is SELinux.