Report advocates open-source approach for software acquisition

A recently released Defense Department report on technology development methodologies advocates more use of open-source software and suggests ways it can be incorporated into the procurement cycle. Resuse can save money by promoting reuse of software across the different defense agencies, the report contends.

The Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts commissioned the Open Technology Development road map, which was published in April but only recently released publicly.

The concept of OTD is based on sharing software code developed by the Defense Department and its contractors, as well as by the worldwide open-source community.

Members of the open-source community have been enthusiastic about the report, noting that it tackles the difficult issue of introducing open-source software into traditional avenues of procurement.

'DOD [is] officially saying, 'We recognize the technical benefits of open source technology; now, how do we go about making it part of our existing process?' ' said John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute of Hattiesburg, Miss.

With the report, 'open source procurement issues'[such as] intellectual property, licensing and valuing open-source solutions'have been elevated to where they may now get the attention they deserve,' noted Peter Gallagher, president of Arlington Va.-based consultancy Development InfoStructure. 'Acquisition officials can have the information needed to implement OTD widely.'

Gallagher noted that the report provides an alternative to the traditional IT procurement methods of purchasing commercial software and developing, or contracting to develop, government-specific software.

'The business model of purchasing physical goods and services has served DOD well in the past; but it falls short when applied to software acquisition,' the report concluded.

'Currently, within DOD acquisitions programs, software code is reused on a limited basis. For example, within an individual DOD program office, software code from a previous contractor may be shared with a new contractor taking their place. But as a rule, sharing of code across the DOD enterprise does not occur. As a result, the possibility that development funding is wasted by multiple efforts is high,' the report noted.

The report also noted that the use of open-source software would make 'industry more likely to compete on ideas and execution versus product lock-in.'

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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