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28 October 2009, 15:26

US Department of Defense memo opens door to open source

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A new memorandumPDF currently being circulated within the US Department of Defense has clarified the US military's position on the use of open source; it's for it. The memorandum was created to resolve issues with a 2003 memorandum which had given some the impression that open source could be locked out of DoD use.

The new policy, written by David M. WeggerenPDF, DoD Deputy Chief Information Officer, points out a number of benefits of OSS (open source software) such as continuous peer review, unrestricted ability to modify code, less reliance on specific vendors, rapid provisioning, lower costs, suitability for rapid prototyping and reduced TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) by sharing development costs. It adds the caveat that open source is not an over-riding factor saying "Ultimately, the software that best meets the needs and mission of the Department should be used, regardless of whether the software is open source".

The memo also says that the requirement to distribute source code is not necessarily applicable to the DoD when the software is only distributed internally. That said, the memo does outline the process required to allow them to release fixes to the public.

The memo has been welcomed by many. Simon Phipps, OSI Board Observer and Chief Open Source Officer at Sun Microsystems, said in his blog that it "finally allows the US Defence Department to proceed with clear guidance, ending much of the FUD that the vested interests have used to keep it away" and called the memorandum "a landmark document for the FOSS movement".


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