Department of Defense Opens Way Up for Open Source
Surprisingly, the US Department of Defense has been aware of and on board with the usage of open source software (OSS) for some time - since 2003, to be exact. Recently the DoD has decided that further clarification of the guidelines surrounding the adoption of OSS was needed and warranted.
The latest guideline does not rewrite the rules but rather further clarifies previous misconceptions and misinterpretations of the previous guideline, dated March of 2003.
One of the first things to note with this policy clarification is that OSS is to be considered on the same level as any computer software available commercially. The statement goes on to say that OSS will be given "appropriate statutory preference".
The policy document goes on to expound the very nature of OSS that most in the public sector have been aware of for quite some time - the advantage of using software that is continuously tested, debugged and updated appropriately.
One misconception that is cleared up is that of the obligation of the Government to publicly distribute the source code of any modified OSS. In reality, any open source software coding that has been modified for internal use is not covered by this obligation. The limitation of this also hinges upon whether or not the modified code will be used outside of the originating modifier (i.e. the Government). The guideline goes on to stipulate that this sort of scenario requires research into the particular licensing of the OSS.
There are other items that are fleshed out and made much clearer to DoD OSS advocates outlined within this new clarifying guidance document.
All in all, it is a fantastic move forward to see not only the President embracing and understanding the advantages of OSS but also our other Government offices opening their eyes wide to the unique possibilities and security of open source software.