Pentagon is preparing guidelines for open-source adoption

The US Department of Defense is about to make it much easier for its sub-agencies to buy into and contribute to open-source software projects.

Given the widespread adoption of open-source software within the US federal government, including the US Department of Defense , it's perhaps not surprising that the regulation-heavy federal government is finally getting around to issuing guidelines for open-source adoption within the US Department of Defense:

One of the primary issues to be addressed is if open source software is a form of commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS)....The memo should also dispel lingering ideas that open source software may not be used because it is a form of shareware or freeware....The memo will also confirm that it is acceptable for an agency to contribute source code back into a public open source project....In addition to defining the relationship open source has with COTS, shareware and copyright, the memo may also articulate some of the possible advantages of deploying open source.

What a profoundly important step forward for the US federal government, and for corporate open-source adoption more broadly. A range of software vendors like IBM and HP have policies as to employee contributions to open-source projects, for example, but in this case we have a major organization defining the parameters in which its employees can contribute to open source.

Will this be contagious? Let's hope so, because it could help to bring a massive flood of open-source software into the industry, given that most enterprise software is written for use by enterprises, not for sale by vendors.

In the narrowest sense, however, this memo potentially portends the proliferation of open-source adoption within the US Department of Defense on a grand scale.

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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