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Convincing the Military to Embrace Open Source 164

Posted by Zonk
from the talking-to-a-brick-wall dept.
drewmoney writes "Misconceptions about what 'open source software' means has made elements of the US Defense Department reluctant to deploy in a live environment. DoD proponents of shared-source projects are now working to reverse this trend by educating IT decision-makers and demonstrating OSS usefulness. 'The cost of cleaning up a "network spill" that introduces classified material on an unclassified network is running about US$11,000 per incident on the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), so the free Secure Save tool could produce monetary savings for the Navy. Additionally, it would cover more file formats than the costly commercial redaction product currently available on the NMCI.'"
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Convincing the Military to Embrace Open Source

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  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @07:31PM (#21852534) Homepage
    Have you ever done a code inspection on a binary? Have you ever written a patch for one?
  • by L7_ (645377) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @07:45PM (#21852634)
    you dont understand. the problem is that with binary distributions, like the majority of COTS software that the DoD/army buys you usually settle on a version number to do all of the testing with. Say, version 1.1. The rest of the system is built around 1.1 and all of its (intended and unintended) functionality. When there is a problem with the software version, commercial vendors fix the problem in the current version. Say you bought version 1.1 in 1997, there is no way that the company is going to sell you 1.1.88 when they are on version 6.0.

    This has nothing to say of the commercial binary distributions that are delivered from companies that are no longer in business... it happens more than you think in the defense industry world. Especially with the late 90's push to buy everything 'COTS'. Say you have version 1.1 of a database layer tool... all of a sudden that company goes out of business, I don't care how 'Mission Critical' the software is, it will never be fixed... since they did not have the source.

    What you need to understand is that the source distribution model is going to change. Open source/GPL'ed code or Apache based FOSS software is going to be delivered by a defense contractor (the ones that will still be in business in 7 years i mean) and take complete authority over the delivered code. This is no different than nowadays when defense companies buy multi-million dollar software packages, delivered as binaries, that they have to maintain responsibility for. Sure, they can pass the buck when the software breaks... but when the defense contractor has the source (and hires a competent enough software engineer (not too common)) then they can make the changes themselves.

    This is what the person is talking about. It doesnt matter that a Chinaman makes the changes to the code, the DoD/military just needs to trust their vendors to authenticate and take responsibility for their software solutions, in house developed, FOSS or closed binary COTS.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Saturday December 29, 2007 @07:57PM (#21852706) Homepage
    You aren't giving the organizations in the military that work with this stuff enough credit. Hint: Your beloved internet started as a military research project. Now think how much farther they have come since then with stuff the private sector won't really see for quite some time (like all other applicable research that come out of the military).
  • Re:No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the linux geek (799780) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @08:21PM (#21852834)
    Judging by parent's User ID, I'm going to karma hell for this, but too damn bad.

    When you insert code into something like the Linux kernel, you agree that from that moment on, it is licensed under GPL version 2. That does not mean you have the luxury of deciding who uses it, despite your little political foibles on that topic. "Free software" means exactly that - if the United States Armed Forces opt to use the software, then they have every right to use it. It is no longer in your control.

    On another note, why should you object to having the military using code you've written? You're failing to understand that the men in uniform are under a binding contract, and that they are sacrificing every day to defend their nation. The US Military does not create policy, civilian politicians do - the military is just a tool of policy. They need all the tools at their disposal to do their job of keeping the United States safe, however that job is defined by the politicians.
  • Re:No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @02:26AM (#21854512)
    You've got a great point! In fact, let's take it a bit further. Why should we do ANYTHING to help the military? I say you start a campaign of civil disobedience aimed at destroying the US military's ability to wage any sort of warfare whatsoever. Don't stop until they're down to using shoelaces and plastic forks. I'm sure this will make the entire world a much safer place, and you'll have PLENTY of time to rebuild the military once foreign troops start rolling over your borders! Plus I'm sure it won't affect your global standing or your quality of life in the slightest! Yep, clearly we could achieve a true utopia if only we could disarm the US military!
  • Re:No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @03:11AM (#21854672) Homepage
    So are you saying that keeping the military in a state where it must funnel money to corporate interests is a _good_ thing?

    If the military stopped using MS software all together, it would remove Microsoft as an entity who would gain by increased military expenditure. Thank you for promoting the military-industrial complex.

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