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The US military bets big on open source

Open source is permeating the US military, and for several good reasons.

While some in private-sector industry drag their feet on open source, it's instructive that arguably the most mission-critical systems in the world are being migrated to open source, namely, the US military's systems.

It's not just a question of cost that drives the US military to buy open source. Indeed, the biggest benefits come down to innovation and flexibility:

...[T]he increasing scope and complexity of military software requirements encourages the use of open source. "If the project is of a sufficient scale, you cannot get there without an open source approach," said Dewey Houck, a senior engineer at Boeing, the lead systems integrator for the Army's FCS.

That is a massively important statement. We may be rapidly approaching the point when it will make little sense to buy proprietary software at all, given the tremendous benefits of open source.

Other benefits? The military cites several:

Some analysts tout open source software as one of the next great technology waves, comparable in its disruptive effects to personal computing and the Internet. That future is already partly here for the U.S. military, with programs such as the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) and organizations such as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) using open technologies. Open source technologies are making inroads among Department of Defense acquisitions as a result of potential benefits such as low cost, flexibility of use and modification, and the lack of vendor lock-in.

Granted, open source is being widely adopted throughout the private and public sectors. But it would be good to see more public commentary by private-sector CIOs on the benefits of open source. If the US military gets these kinds of benefits, surely a Citigroup or Nordstrom must derive huge benefits, too. Or should.

Via John Scott's Powdermonkey blog.