Open source software (OSS) usage is growing across the Department of Defense (DoD), not surprisingly so is the community of open source developers and integrators. In industry and the technology community at large many consider open source to be somewhat of a social movement centered around the free exchange of technological ideas; however across the DoD, where pragmatism so common in the Information Technology (IT) landscape, OSS is often simply the best solution to the military’s technology challenges.
In 2009 the DoD issued the policy memo Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (mil-oss.org/resources/us-dod_policy-memo_clarifying-guidance-regarding-oss_16oct2009.pdf) which defines “open source software” as “software for which the human-readable source code is available for use, study, reuse, modification, enhancement, and redistribution by the users of that software. In other words, OSS is software for which the source code is ‘open’.” Although minor issues such as some Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIG) compliance remain to be worked out, this memo clears the last substantive policy obstacle for OSS use within the DoD and its services.
Open source projects in the private sector naturally attract contributors and organized community involvement, it is only natural that the same is happening now that the DoD has embraced OSS. One of the first groups to gain momentum is Military Open Source (Mil-OSS). Each year, the group hosts a convention called a Working Group where members from all over the United States come together to learn, share and discuss OSS projects, upcoming policy changes and how to understand and support the military in its adoption of OSS.