Department of Defense Relies On Linux

Discussion in 'Computer Support' started by TechNews, May 27, 2004.

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    By Michael S. Mimoso

    Enterprises looking toward the federal government for technological
    inspiration got a healthy dose of it recently when the Department of
    Defense authorized the use of open-source software within its ranks.

    DoD chief information officer John Stenbit penned a memo May 28 that
    authorized the use of open-source software as long as it adheres to the
    same DoD policies that govern proprietary and government-developed
    software. Namely, open-source software must comply with National Security
    Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Policy No. 11, which
    governs software acquisitions, and it must be configured in accordance with
    DoD-approved security configuration guidelines.

    "This is very significant, because this is the first official federal
    government statement putting open-source software on a level playing field
    with proprietary," said Tony Stanco, founding director of the Center of
    Open Source Government and associate director of the Cyber Security Policy
    and Research Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

    "This legitimizes [open-source software]. Before, it was kind of like
    'don't ask, don't tell.' People weren't asking about it and weren't using
    it because no one wanted to risk their careers on it," Stanco said. "We
    expect some of the conservative elements to become more aggressive about

    Stanco pointed to a study by the Mitre Corp., a not-for-profit IT service
    organization that manages a DoD research and development center, on the use
    of free and open-source software in the DoD and what would happen if
    open-source was banned in the department.

    The report, released in January, points out that the use of open-source
    software is pretty prevalent in the DoD, in particular in infrastructure
    support, software development, security and research. The report said the
    DoD was especially dependent on open-source software for security, in
    particular because of its open nature and the ability of developers to
    rapidly fix vulnerabilities and respond to attacks. Banning open-source
    software would adversely impact network security and other areas, the
    report said.

    "The DoD usually leads the way with technology. It's pretty cutting edge,"
    Stanco said. "Here's a credible voice on the IT side saying open-source is
    nothing to be afraid of."

    Stanco expects that this action by the DoD could spur state governments to
    consider more open-source products.

    "The states are in bad shape and need to reduce budgets," he said. "They
    need to make cuts. That's why states like Oregon and Texas are considering
    moving away from proprietary to open-source. Rhode Island and Hawaii are
    also looking into it."

    Cost, however, is not an issue for the federal government, which has money
    to spend as it tries to get the Department of Homeland Security

    "It's about the flexibility and security with regard to fixes and
    customization," Stanco said. "If you're building a new weapon system, the
    ability to play with Linux is especially good."
    TechNews, May 27, 2004
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