When General Justice is quoted as saying " When we rolled into Baghdad, we did it using open source " what he really means is: yeh, we paid RedHat for software just like we pay WindRiver, Oracle, Microsoft, et al. The fact that the Linux distribution is made up of Open Source Software is a byproduct, a tendril of the normal acquisition process. This is absolutely nothing to be excited about, unless you are RedHat.
At the event this week General Justice bedazzled the generally ignorant attendees with his ability to play comedian. But, to my surprise had absolutely nothing useful to say about Open Source Software. Come on people, are we not past the fact that Open Source Software does not imply in any way shape or form Open Technology Development? The key word: development is missing from the DoD (except for a very few previously mentioned projects).
There was even a goon, who works for my previous employer, who had the audacity to say that if he signed a contributor’s agreement he would get fired. Amazing. I didn’t have it in me that day to tell the poor chap that his company pays to be part of the JCP and sits on multiple JSRs. I also was nice enough to not tell him that his company was paying employees to help develop RTSJ. But, this person wasn’t even close to being the worse antagonist. I couldn’t look at the guy long enough to recognize the company name on his badge – but, he made it clear to everyone that he works on the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS). SOSCOE is one of the many stories that, due to its flailing, gives weight to the Open Technology Development argument. Unfortunately for us taxpayers this guy is getting a paycheck.
Back to General Justice. I actually believe he had good intentions in his spiel. But, he lost me. He started making a point about “Citizenship” – which had me thinking that he was going to say the Army wants to be a good Open citizen. If that WAS his intention – he didn’t make the connection. And, the General running out the door without answering any questions led me to believe he found himself back in the corner. I’m not an Open Source genius – that’s for sure. I can only imagine that the General felt like I would feel going to OSCON and talking about contributing code.
OK, enough rambling. I’d just like to attempt to finish General Justice’s thought and expand on Jim Stogdill’s karma point. The DoD likes to think it is a good citizen. By funding DARPA we, the United States, have received commercial products from the DoD – much in the way “things” have rolled out of NASA. The thing with being a good citizen is that it requires contribution to the given society. If the General really wants to be on the forefront of Open Technology citizenship, then how about opening FCS’ SOSCOE platform. If interoperability is really the issue that needs to be overcome – how about building SOSCOE in the open and being a good citizen? Hmmn. Well, that would force Boeing to be a good citizen too. I realize there are a slew of very complicated things (starting with the acquisition/contracts) that would have to be resolved. I’m sure Boeing would argue that there is a ton of IP in the code…but, this shouldn’t matter. It is still their IP, and their copyright…and, the biggest data point against that argument, is that they are still getting paid the same, regardless.
One last thought. What if the government gave karma points for good citizenship. You produce Open Source Software, you demonstrate good will, you should at a minimum get the recognition of doing so if not a competitive advantage.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll have something else to whine about shortly.
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