Your Department of Defense made some major moves on open source this week.
- It announced it will work with the Open Source Software Institute to bring over 50 administration applications under open source licenses, starting with its Corporate Management Information System.
- DoD signed a Blanket Purchase Agreement with Carahsoft for the purchase of support contracts to a number of open source products including Red Hat, JBOSS, Alfresco, and mySQL.
Add this to the ongoing work in developing a military forge site and you have an agency that seems as serious as a heart attack, not just about taking advantage of open source, but of being a model citizen in an open source world.
At a technology transfer showcase hosted by Johns Hopkins a defense IS official noted all this will help DoD "leverage" improvements to CMIS made by other agencies, universities or individuals. But that's the open source deal -- you benefit from me and I benefit from you.
An OSSI official noted that, by designating its software open source, the government gains more control over it than if it were public domain. But I can't see any problem with that, either. Public domain was used before open source licenses existed, so adapting to a legal structure once it's there seems natural.
It is hard to underestimate the potential importance of this, although I underline the word potential.
For decades the U.S. military has been a buyer of systems, not a maker of anything. This was clear in last year's dispute between AHLTA and VistA, the former a DoD medical software purchased from a vendor, the latter a public domain system developed by the Veterans Administration.
If the benefits of open source making can be proven it could lead to a sea change in military culture. If.