US Dept. of Defense forges an open source path

Ongoing efforts to modernize the Department of Defense's thinking about tech issues brought the Defense Information Services Agencies (DISA) to the cusp of launching forge.mil, DISA's own version of the SourceForge open source model.

It may seem a little surreal to have the IT support team for the Department of Defense working closely with a company with the motto, "Where subversion meets the enterprise," but here we are: DISA last year took up talks with CollabNet, which bought SourceForge Enterprise Edition from sourceforge.com back in 2007. The company already works with a number of government entities (including the US Air Force and the State of New Mexico Department of Corrections).

Defense has been pondering the open-source model for years, as the development process proved itself repeatedly out in the wider world. The forge.mil project has been in the works since an initial $4.6 million funding allotment in September 2007 for DISA's Federated Development and Certification Environment, which aims to find a way to create software with security standards uniformly acceptable to all branches of the DoD.

Forge.mil's features are pretty familiar fare for open-source developers. The structure focuses on accountability tools such as version control, discussion wikis, and issue/bug tracking. In addition, a link to DISA's Net-Centric Enterprise Services program provides infrastructure basics such as messaging services and hosting.

As for the projects, so far there are three in the hopper -- all of them less Operation Overlord and more day-to-day operations in nature. Two handle mass configuration for various types of servers. The other is built to manage requests for proposal development. DSIA officials estimate that 20 projects will be online within the next six months.

A few of the basics, though, seem to be works in progress. The forge.mil domain doesn't resolve; forgemil.com hands back a 403 (forbidden!) error, even though the code is to be readable (though not editable) by anyone. In that sense it's probably not exactly like the open source projects to which some users may be accustomed; you'll need a smart card with the appropriate login credentials to get into the repository.

The service is currently in LOA (limited operational availability) mode. According to CollabNet's blog, the official launch of the service is slated for April.

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