Defense Dept. committee has open-source leaning

Open-source software could well get a boost from the U.S. Congress as a Defense Department spending bill targeting reduced costs and better security comes up for debate.

As Government Computer News reports, the U.S Department of Defense has singled out open source in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 5658). The gist? The Defense Department sees open source as a way to cut costs and boost security, and it wants more of it.

While open source has attained legislative approbation in Latin America and elsewhere, this is first time I can remember seeing it in a Congressional bill.

Currently, the open-source language is focused on aerial vehicles, but it's instructive all the same:

The committee is concerned by the rising costs and decreasing security associated with software development for information technology systems. These rising costs are linked to the increasing complexity of software, which has also resulted in increasing numbers of system vulnerabilities that might be exploited by malicious hackers and potential adversaries. The committee encourages the department to rely more broadly on (open-source software) and establish it as a standard for intra-department software development.

If you're an open-source project lead or commercial vendor, this language is a step in the right direction. If you're a proprietary-software vendor, well, perhaps you side with the Business Software Alliance (funded by Microsoft and others), which has been lobbying hard against the bill.

I don't personally feel that open source needs to be legislated to be adopted. Indeed, I'm aware of widespread adoption of open source within the Department of Defense already, commercial and otherwise. Perhaps this legislative action will accelerate adoption further, but again, I'm not sure that open source needs any assistance here. The cream has a way of rising to the top, and open source keeps rising.

Perhaps someone needs to introduce a bill to handicap open source's rise in order to help out those starving proprietary vendors? :-)

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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