It's been no secret that the DoD has considered open source for a long time. Consideration has finally reached adoption. The proof? A new site, based on Sourceforge.net, Forge.mil, will serve as a repository for open source, defense-related software. Anyone can join the site - so long as they have a DOD, CAC, or ECA certificate. The site currently only contains information and no code. The site itself is nothing more than the Sourceforge code updated to meet DoD standards.
According to a writer on Slashdot, anyone will have access to the code on the site. I have yet to find any validation to this claim. There are currently only three projects on the site. One of those projects, Bastille, aims to aid in the automation of server configuration. Another project manages requests for proposals. The final project currently on the site automates the secure configuration of Solaris systems. DoD administrators predict there will be 20 projects on the site in next six months.
Of course, this is fantastic news for open source. What this does is validate, without question, the legitimacy of the open source model. But there is one issue I would like to bring up with regards to this project. I understand this is the DoD we're talking about, so keeping this software out of the hands of the general public seems understandable. But if, in fact, the general public does not have access to the code, is this really open source? Or is this the DoD taking advantage of the nature of open source?
This all comes, of course, on the heels of newly inaugurated U.S. President Obama who has promised an open U.S. government. So under an Obama presidency we could enjoy open source software used government-wide and the DoD embracing open source for defense software. How does this scenario play out in your imagination? In mine it plays out with open source software gaining serious traction in a country where it has had problems finding acceptance. When the government and the DoD sees that open source is a viable solution more and more corporate HQs will have less and less reason to not accept open source.
Although I find the obfuscation of the code for the DoD open source applications (and I do understand the necessity of this) at odds with the fundamental ideal of open source software, I am thrilled this is happening. This is Linux reaching the peak of a mountain they have been climbing since the mid 90s. Well, it seems open source has reached that peak and should enjoy the rewards for this long, hard, uphill battle.
Congratulations open source community. This is a big win for you.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.