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The Military GNU is Not Unix Software Linux

New DoD Memo On Open Source Software 146

dwheeler writes "The US Department of Defense has just released a new official memo on open source software: 'Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS).' (The memo should be up shortly on this DoD site.) This memo is important for anyone who works with the DoD, including contractors, on software and systems that include software; it may influence many other organizations as well. The DoD had released a memo back in 2003, but 'misconceptions and misinterpretations... have hampered effective DoD use and development of OSS.' The new memo tries to counter those misconceptions and misinterpretations, and is very positive about OSS. In particular, it lists a number of potential advantages of OSS, and recommends that in certain cases the DoD release software as OSS."
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New DoD Memo On Open Source Software

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  • Re:But ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wannabe Code Monkey ( 638617 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:14PM (#29891007)

    How can the DoD release software under a copyleft license when the federal government is incapable of holding copyrights in the first place?

    Come on! I like the GPL as much as any other free-software-loving-commie but even I don't think OSS==copyleft. Public domain, along with BSD and MIT type licenses are recognized as open source (heck, software released under them is even recognized as "free" by the free software crowd).

  • This is great... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:22PM (#29891111)
    My federal manager was decidedly anti-OSS, he would state that we can't get support on the OSS, so we couldn't use it, denying anything and everything that came through. All I can say now is read it and weep.
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:48PM (#29891351)
    probably has more to do with who's now running the office of the President. Remember, in 2001 that same administration who sat on the 2003 memo canceled the hybrid vehicle DoT program and pushed forward the hydrogen vehicle program which stopped all US auto makers from continuing with hybrids and instead just made $1 million hydrogen prototypes. They were so pro business they felt it was best they decided what was bad for their business partners and what was best for the pockets of their business partners.

    the current administration is still making mistakes but they are also doing some things right. We shall see if the DoD has figured this out. My guess is yes. I'd heard of some programs which had been failing and running up costs using Microsoft stuff and when that was swapped out for OSS, the projects started making real progress. There used to be alot of UNIX in the DoD but Windows found its way in and really depreciated the quality and reliability they used to have( where I once worked atleast ). Maybe they finally figured out it's time to stop being a sucker and go with what not only is often more reliable but is totally open for them to play in but also fix and bend to do things not originally intended. IMO

  • Shameless plug (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dremspider ( 562073 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @07:53PM (#29891421)
    I wrote about this a little while ago on why the federal government needs to be using Open Source. http://www.dremspider.net/?p=15 [dremspider.net] This is what I have seen as a federal contractor.
  • by xyphor ( 151066 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @08:32PM (#29891809)

    probably has more to do with who's now running the office of the President.

    No, Obama had nothing to do with it. I sent comments about the draft version of this document well over a year ago. Yes, it takes government this long to do something this logical and simple.

  • Re:NMCI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thtrgremlin ( 1158085 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:06PM (#29892033) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't complain to much about getting all the right tools for all the wrong reasons; better than all the wrong tools for the wrong reasons.
  • C'mon Steve (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:38PM (#29892643) Journal

    We think it's funny. We know you don't think it's funny. That's part of why it's funny. You want to fucking kill google, and all you can do is thrash furniture. Your team can't even keep a fucking SideKick working and you want to take on Android. What is it, a decade of WiMo, and 6.5 is the best you can do?

    Get over it. You're Wile E. Coyote and Google is your Roadrunner. That's some funny shit there. If they call their app store ACME that would complete the joke. Somebody get Sergey on the horn.

  • Re:NMCI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:46PM (#29892697)

    I am a contractor on an Air Force project. My facility is up to IE 7 and windows Vista. IE 8 is strictly forbidden, and firefox is not approved for use on the project, though it works just fine with the exception that the default font is a little to small to comfortably read.

  • Re:Shameless plug (Score:2, Interesting)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:50PM (#29892729) Journal

    Hell, I warned them about the trap of commercial software when it was fairly new.

    People don't really remember that almost all software used to be FOSS.

  • Re:But ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by risacher ( 41716 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:24PM (#29892961) Homepage

    For the Defense Department, the contractor typically retains the copyright to whatever they develop, and the gov't gets "government purpose rights" to it, or in some cases "unlimited rights". This is the way rules are laid out in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement. The DFARS read they way they do because Title 41, US Code says it should be that way. (Or in some cases, Title 10).

    Individual procurements can be different, depending on the negotiated terms of the contract. The DFARS specifies what amounts to "default" clauses, that are usually in place.

    Keep in mind that most gov't employees (and most gov't contractors) have never actually seen a real contract, much less read it. That's what lawyers and contracting officers do... so program/project managers frequently don't actually know what intellectual rights they own.

    Also, it's different for the rest of the federal government (i.e. non-Defense). Copyrights are one of the areas where the FAR and DFARS differ.

  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:30PM (#29892973) Journal

    I had been having ongoing arguments with auditors and DoD scanners about Open Source Software versus "freeware" - it's free, so that means it's Freeware - right? Finally, Daniel Risacher from the "Defense Department's Office of the Chief Information Officer" made this announcement. [gcn.com]

    Reading that, I got all excited...and waited patiently. For a bit. Finally, come April, I emailed him directly with this question:

    At a RedHat conference on Oct8, 2008, you made a comment that the DoD would further clarify that OSS is not the same as Freeware/ Shareware, for those who are still confused about the subject. We are currently undergoing an audit, and are being told that we can't use various products because they are "shareware" - specifically, mysql was on the hitlist. Discontinuing use of mysql would be an engineering nightmare for us, esp since anything else would also be "freeware" according to the auditors.

    Of course, 8500.2 says that we can't use shareware because we don't have access to the source code, and we obviously have access to the code of open source products. I can't find the memo that you mentioned would be coming soon - has it been released?

    To which he responded:

    From: Daniel Risacher ((redacted))
    Sent: Monday, April 06, 2009 3:54 PM
    To: Brian LaMere
    Subject: Re: OSS in DoD?
    The memo is essentially finished, but stuck in an near-endless do-loop of executive-level staffing.
    Forward the names of any gov't personnel who are giving you trouble to my work email: ((redacted)), and I'll try to talk to them.

    Wow...that was back in April. Things sure do move fast around there ;)

    There are countless documents that say so many different things, compounded by the fact that there are a multitude of auditors who have been trained that "Open Source" is "Freeware." And since "Freeware" is disallowed according to 8500.2, they then decide that "Open Source" is too. Nevermind that the Linux kernel is Open Source, no - they would pick and choose randomly which software we could and couldn't use. On a whim they'd suddenly decide mysql was no longer ok, no matter what evidence I could provide otherwise.

    G-d, how I miss that circus.

  • by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @01:00AM (#29893359)
    Obama is responsible for everything that happens in his Government.

    I learned that lesson during my Officer training. It was my final 'lead' assessment, and we were on a patrol against hostile forces. My team had been briefed twice that day on the rules of engagement by me, and my 2IC was briefed by me a third time as well as he had to give the brief to another group. I'd then checked understanding of the ROE with the group after he'd done so.

    We went on patrol and encountered enemy. We had one of the enemy guys cornered and he 'surrendered' walking toward my squad with his hands in the air. My 2IC saw the enemy guy, and recognized him as one of his best mates. In about one second he raised his rifle - and with a grin on his face - fired (blanks) at the guy. By the time he had his weapon at his shoulder I was yelling at him to stand-down, but he continued and 'shot' the prisoner. I was hauled over the coals by the instructors, and my final mark was going to be the difference between a distinguished graduation and merit graduation. I said "OK, what could I have done differently to get a higher mark?" The answer: "Nothing. You did everything right, you've just learned a hard lesson in leadership. You are responsible for the actions of your team. If this were real you'd be up on war crimes."

    The lesson: You are responsible for the actions of your team.

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