This headline "US Defense Dept. goes public with some open source plans" caught my attention this morning. I was excited about seeing our Government take a step in the less expensive open source software community. In fact, I briefly mentioned it in an article last week. However, after reading the article, the headline was a bit misleading.

I expected to see an article talking about the Federal Government finally taking some steps to move to open source, but instead the article is about how DoD officials have partnered with the Open Source Software Institute to push some of their software suites that were developed for the Government into an open source package. While I admire the fact that the Government is putting some of their work in the public domain, I wonder a few things. First, "partner with the OSSI" to me, means that the Government is now paying someone else to figure out how to move their packages to the open source community..-Edit, this was clarified in the comments as not to be the case. Secondly, the suites specifically include "more than 50 applications involving human relations, training, security, acquisitions".

Few would argue that the US Government could be considered the poster child for best practices in any of those categories, so I am not very excited about seeing the final products. I recently pointed out in a blog post that the government admittedly does not have proper management of resources (in procurement specifically), so I can only imagine how much tax payer's dollars were pumped into these applications, which obviously do not work.

I do commend the efforts of the Government to push work (that was funded by people) into the public domain for public consumption. After all, we did pay for it. However, I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone as a resource for determining how to run your business.
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William Dorn

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  1. Couple of points: 1) take a look at the CRADA, posted publicly on the OSSI site. It says clearly that this project cost the Govt nothing. They did not pay OSSI, we did it to help promote their adoption strategy. It is our mission to do such things. Good for them, good for you and I as taxpayers...good for the collective open source effort.

    2) the CMIS program IS WORKING, and has been heavily requested by other Govt agencies. By making it open source, then they can more readily share the program without (or with less worry) worrying that someone will take it from public domain, copyright it and then "sell" it back to the which case you and I do get shafted. We also have been tasked with getting this program out into the community and industry and seeing if it will survive. Ultimate goal is to see it supported by various vendors and provided as a viable option for govt (Fed/state/muni), academic environments, and industry.

    Also note that this project evolved over a year and each component was seriously considered by representatives from the govt, industry and the open source community. I believe it is a step in the right direction. It is not a silver bullet, but a "step" and that is what makes long-term success.

    If there are any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly and ask. We've posted all documents on our site and everything we do it open to viewing and hopefully discussion. Thanks for discussing this issue.

    Kindest regards, jmw (aka, John Weathersby, OSSI)

  2. John,
    Thanks for the clarity. Perhaps I was being a bit rough, you are correct, a step in the right direction is better than nothing at all. I just have seen too many of these project have millions of dollars pumped into them and then are later abandoned, even though the end product was something usable and useful. Hopefully this marks a shift in the way things are going to be done.