US Defense Dept. goes public with some open source plans

As a next step in open source, the DoD is teaming up with the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI) on a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that will allow over 50 federal administration applications to be publicly distributed under an open source license.

In a presentation at John Hopkins University on Monday, DoD officials said that, under the deal, users in other federal agencies -- along with state and local government, and the general public -- will be able to reuse code developed by the agency's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) for its Corporate Management Information System (CMIS).

The suite that's going open source includes more than 50 applications involving human relations, training, security, acquisitions, and other functions used by more than DoD employees around the world.

But although the DoD is open sourcing the suite at the request of other government agencies, the move isn't 100 percent magnanimous.

"We chose a CRADA and open source model so that we could leverage other agencies', academic, industry and the open source community's enhancements and modifications to improve DISA's system. We believe this will be a win-win for all involved," acknowledged Jack Penkoske, DISA's director of manpower, security, and personnel. Penkoske spoke Monday at the National Security Agency and ISA Technology Transfer Showcase at Johns Hopkins.

John Weathersby of the OSSI mentioned another benefit to the federal government: "Software developed by government employees falls under 'public domain.' By distributing the program under an open source license, the government retains access to the system without having to worry that they'll have to repay for the development of something that was originally created with public funds."

Meanwhile, in much less public fashion, the DoD's DISA has been working with CollabNet on Forge.mil, a set of tools for issue/bug tracking, version control, and other aspects of software development. However, Forge.mil is being created through a $4.6 million funding allotment for DISA's Federated Development and Certification Environment, first issued in 2007, and aimed at producing software for DoD consumption with security standards uniformly acceptable across all branches of the agency.

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