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Military Enlists Open Source Community 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the freedom-is-free dept.
jmwci1 writes "The US Defense Department is enlisting an open source approach to software development — an about-face for such a historically top-down organization. In recent weeks, the military has launched a collaborative platform called Forge.mil for its developers to share software, systems components and network services. The agency also signed an agreement with the Open Source Software Institute to allow 50 internally developed workforce management applications to be licensed to other government agencies, universities and companies."
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Military Enlists Open Source Community

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Okay. Who wants to kill for free?
    • Maybe if we pay these developers 50 workforce management applications then they'll want to give us free labor!

      I can't see this ending well. What if someone writes an innovative new missile guidance system based on optimizing ballistic trajectory corrections to increase average-case range? Suddenly you have a dangerous weapon that threatens America's national security to be released to the public, and the army squirrels it away. OSS devs aren't going to like working for the army for no pay.
      • Your right but more likely it's because CMIS, their first release,

        ... was revamped in January 2006 using the latest Web-based tools including an Adobe Cold Fusion front-end and a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 back-end.

        isn't something like to get OSS geeks too excited.

  • I Dunno (Score:5, Funny)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:18PM (#27738079) Journal

    This could end badly. Here's all these geeks working hard at coding, only to be interrupted by one of their own doing a mock-Python "Stop the skit! This is much too silly." and then everyone doing the "military fairy" song.

    The Pentagon may not survive.

    • Look on the bright side. Now that the new administration has banned 'not *quite* torture', they'll need something to get the alleged nutjobs to confess.

      Obscure geek Python parodies would surely crack even the most hardened Talib.

      • by KevinKnSC (744603)

        I think you've forgotten that joke warfare was banned by a special session of the Geneva Conventions.

    • I wish they had this three years ago. I worked on the ULLS-G system, which is a software system for unit-level logistics. It was written in ADA and ran in DOS. It was a horribly non-intuitive system. Trying to do anything with it took ages. There wasn't any sort of batch feature to batch up commands or reports.

      The software used the SAGE database format and I was able to find an ODBC driver for it. Using that, I was able to write Perl scripts that could read and write to the database and do things a whole lot faster. I mean, things that took 2 hours to do (manually), took less than a second now. I was also able to tie things into Excel for extremely accurate and fast reporting. Something that none of the units there were able to do.

      I was actually supposed to do any of this, because only authorized personnel are allowed to modify the software (reason being they didn't want anyone to mess things up). However, my commander and the BMO (Battalion Maintenance Officer) kinda let me do what I wanted to do because I was providing results.

      Now they have a new system in place that's a whole lot better. Something with an Oracle backend. Not sure what the front-end is actually built on. Looks like access, but might not be it.

      Anytay, at the time I really wanted to provide the scripts and software that I had written to other people in the military - either people who had my MOS or at the very least, the developers, so that they could improve the software.

      I haven't had that much of an opportunity to work with the new software. Also, I'm getting done with my contract in December (end to 9 years of service). But I think there are a bunch of nerds and geeks like me hiding out in the military and I'm sure they have some pretty good suggestions to improve the software that the military uses.

      • by vivin (671928)

        Should have mentioned. The reason this would have helped 3 years ago is that I was in Iraq at the time, which is where I extensively used the ULLS-G system.

      • The software was unreadable and outdated, so you rewrote it in perl?
      • by Vreejack (68778)

        Oh. My. God.

        STILL using Ada because it is specified in the contracts by default and no one has the sense to ask for anything else. Fifteen years ago our contractor had to send people to school to learn it in order to support the contract. Still using MS-DOS probably for the same reason. I worked on a little training system that ran on PC's and I made sure the DOS licenses were were stored under the floor boards so that they would never get lost. We had to have them in case we ever got inspected and Lo

        • by hargrand (1301911)

          I was teaching computer science at the Air Force Academy a few years back (2004). The Ada zealots were well and firmly entrenched in the Computer Science department, and now occupy its top echelons. I suspect they're still using it as the primary teaching language (though to their credit, they appear to have completely expunged any mention of the programming languages used in these courses).

          That said, there is a certain logic in using Ada in an academic setting as well as those requiring high reliability

          • by hargrand (1301911)

            "(though to their credit, they appear to have completely expunged any mention of the programming languages used in these courses)"

            By which I meant their course descriptions posted to the web, not the courses themselves... that would be silly.

        • A honest question: what is, in your opinion, wrong with Ada?
          I never learned Ada myself but everything I heard about it was pretty good.

        • I made sure the DOS licenses were were stored under the floor boards so that they would never get lost. We had to have them in case we ever got inspected...

          I'd expect them to be using FreeDOS, at the very least. Wow!

  • Why not get the comprehensive mindset from the community as a whole. Some of the most secure and stable platforms are open source.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:22PM (#27738131) Journal
    Bloody open-sores communists. Don't they know that military contractors have a god given right to profit?
    • Re:How dare they? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RingDev (879105) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:35PM (#27738307) Homepage Journal

      No Joke. In 2001 the US Marine Corps disbanded the 4067 MOS. While we used to have Marines, in uniform, writing code for a wide assortment of tasks (from menial office apps to classified COM vaults and even some flight system work in ADA), we moved to consultants.

      Replacing a $14,400/year Corporal with a $120,000 civilian. One who doesn't have to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

      -Rick

      • by Dielectric (266217) on Monday April 27, 2009 @07:22PM (#27738815)

        What does mil-spec code look like? Do you have to put //SIR! after every semicolon?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CarpetShark (865376)

          What does mil-spec code look like?

          Since ADA was the language created for military code, mil-spec code looks a lot like an ADA program. Design by contract, for one thing.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Frosty Piss (770223)

            Since ADA was the language created for military code, mil-spec code looks a lot like an ADA program. Design by contract, for one thing.

            GDSS-2 [af.mil] is written in VB6.

            • by RingDev (879105)

              A lot of projects from the late 90's were VB6, at least in the Marine Corps. We had 3 options:

              ADA - great for guidance systems, horrendous for UIs.
              VB5/6 - great for UI and business apps, sucks for pretty much everything though.
              Lotus Notes - sucks himilaian goat shit through a straw.

              -Rick

              • GDSS2 is pretty much all business app / presentation of data from other sources. Heavy on the GUI. So yes, VB made a great choice really.
              • by T.E.D. (34228)
                Ada's no worse for GUI's than C++ is. However, it was not designed to build GUI apps, like VB was.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by finity (535067)

        I get the impression that you think this is an awful shame. Do you think we need programmers that take an oath to support and defend the Constitution? Do you think programmers need to maintain the high standards of fitness required by the Marines? I guarantee you that wearing a uniform makes it harder to code (it's much easier in flip flops and shorts).

        It's unlikely that those civilians are actually paid $120k, but you're right that they make more than $14k. I think that (in many cases) it's an awful

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          True, The Civilian is probably not making $120,000.

          However, the Defense Contractor that hired him for $80,000 is getting $120,000 for doing so (and providing his health insurance and, well, that's about it.)

          Do Programmers HAVE to sign and swear in order to program? no.

          However, considering the quality of some of the software that the military has to use, it would be VERY useful to have trained programmers rotating into and out of positions where they are using it in the field, and than updating and maintai

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            So a principle of open source coding allows the DOD to do one thing particularly well, review the code of likely job applicants. Obviously should you submit high quality code, as they likely shift to a 50:50 split (internal:external) coding, they will look to employ you directly

            This also allows for coding inputs of allied countries and even some not so allied countries. Dual benefit there is, the are establishing friendlier and more open and communicative ties with other countries (repair some of the dam

          • In an industry where four 9s is considered standard

            ...when operating in clean, air-conditioned, access-controlled server rooms.

            Don't misunderstand me; both of my parents were military (now retired). I'm not suggesting that we ought to accept lesser reliability, merely stating that reliability is a *lot* harder when the systems have to work in desert heat and sand, arctic cold and snow, portably-generated power, and enemy action (including direct mechanical harm--bombing--and jamming or other electrical attacks).

            To put it another way: I can score many-nines

          • True, The Civilian is probably not making $120,000. However, the Defense Contractor that hired him for $80,000 is getting $120,000 for doing so (and providing his health insurance and, well, that's about it.)

            Try more like $65k, $80k top for the programmer.

            Do Programmers HAVE to sign and swear in order to program? no

            All contracts require the work be done with appropriately cleared personnel - whether gov't or contractor. Clearances do have loyalty clauses, etc. in them, and failure to comply means priso

        • Re:How dare they? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Ocker3 (1232550) on Monday April 27, 2009 @07:53PM (#27739133)
          I disagree. Having coders who have an afinity with and an understanding of the actual roles and duties of the people they're coding for can be very useful. And as to being oath-taking Marines, they are arguably quite motivated to make sure that no details are leaked and that systems are secure, as opposed to the vulnerable contractor systems that leaked that JSF data recently.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mrjohnson (538567)

          It is a damn shame. I was on the other side of the fence and I can tell you, it's a lot harder to get something done when you've got to ask/beg a civilian to do something for you. He doesn't care what the 1stSgt told you to do, he's not in the chain of command.

          Or even worse, the civilian in charge of our local network was a high ranking civilian. He actually had more on-base clout than our regiment's CO. It took *months* to get network jacks opened, forget about adding new devices. Buying an fscking printer

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RingDev (879105)

          Do you think we need programmers that take an oath to support and defend the Constitution?

          Next time someone runs into a critical fault in a COM shack in the south Pacific, see what the response time is getting a civilian in Virginia out of bed, into the office, and working on the problem as opposed to having a trained and proficient Marine on site to fix the issue.

          Do you think programmers need to maintain the high standards of fitness required by the Marines? I guarantee you that wearing a uniform makes it harder to code (it's much easier in flip flops and shorts).

          There are benefits and detractors. On the benefit side, coding standards are non-optional. There is room for variety, but if there is one thing you get used to in the Marine Corps, it is standards. Also, as a coder in the MC you get to

          • by radtea (464814)

            Next time someone runs into a critical fault in a COM shack in the south Pacific...

            And what, pray tell, does a guy in a COM shack in the South Pacific have to do with defending the Constitution?

            Defending the American Empire, yeah. The Constitution... not so much.

            • I'm not one to want to go to war for ANY reason except defending the people and the place that I love. I understand that there are many things that are corrupt about our government, but that is no reason not to defend the right for people like you to say what you like about the military and the government, because it is your right, and people like OP are willing to die so that American's can have that right. Sure it protects the fat-cats in Washington and the CEOs that raped the economy of the world, but

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Yes, but because the $120,000 civilian is paid out of a different pot of money than the $14,000 corporal, The US Government is actually SAVING Money!

        Don't you love how Washington thinks?

      • Re:How dare they? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Eil (82413) on Monday April 27, 2009 @09:45PM (#27740207) Homepage Journal

        Replacing a $14,400/year Corporal with a $120,000 civilian. One who doesn't have to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

        On one Air Force base that I was stationed, it was very common for a company (usually Lockheed Martin) to "convince" the military that a certain position would be better served by a civilian contractor. It was just mere coincidence that the military person currently occupying that job just happened to be within early retirement age and that, even more coincidentally, he would be the one hired by the contractor to fill the civilian position after the military position was closed.

        Eventually, entire portions of the base were run by civilians (civil engineering, the supply chain, avionics shops, test equipment maintenance, and vehicle management and maintenance are only a few that I recall off the top of my head) and the only military members that were left were those that legally couldn't be replaced by a contractor because they would be needed if the unit were to deploy anywhere.

        I don't think most Slashdotters realize how big/powerful/corrupt the entire defense contracting industry really is.

      • by PeeShootr (949875)
        Yeah, that's a real shame. How dare the government replace an 18 year old high school grad with a competant, college educated, degree holding programmer to work on advanced combat and flight systems that have the potential to kill many people. Worse yet, kill many of the WRONG PEOPLE. I'd prefer to leave the coding up to the pros. Thanks. That's all.
        • by RingDev (879105)

          To be fair, the MC's 4067 MOS training was a 9 week course of 10 hour days. Basically, imagine a vocational CS degree program, strip out all of the non-CS programs (other than phys-ed) and make it a full day class schedule, and you'll have a pretty good idea of the training.

          Were we the best coders in the world? Hell no. If I knew half the things I've learned in the decade since I would have been ten times the coder I was then. But at the time, most of our consultants were pretty similar. Remember, in the la

  • Repost anyone? (Score:5, Informative)

    by saleenS281 (859657) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:27PM (#27738193) Homepage
    This story is almost as cool as it was when it was posted 2 months ago! [slashdot.org]
    • by jd (1658)

      Yeah, but since the military have published (on about this scale) GPLed and BSDed source code for decades, was it news even then?

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:28PM (#27738209) Homepage

    Why is it that every time I hear about the Military and Open Source, I have visions of Tux wearing a green helmet, holding an M16, and baring a grin with a fat cigar?

    • Because there is a widely proliferated (heh-heh) image that is more or less exactly what you describe. It was popular as a background on the "security" distributions. It's interesting that now I can't seem to find it.

      In other news, there is also this [wikimedia.org] -- which I have also seen many times.
    • See the logo on Rockhopper in Alistair Reynolds' "Pushing Ice". It was eventually painted over as heavily armed penguins were considered a little "violent" for First Contact...
  • Dupe? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Bearhouse (1034238)

    http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/01/1259203 [slashdot.org]

    Still, it's open source and the DoD - what's not to like?

    • http://news.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/01/1259203

      Still, it's open source and the DoD - what's not to like?

      Dupe!! [slashdot.org]

      • In fairness, they posted a minute apart.

        If his browser works like the one I use then there is a 2 minute wait when you click preview and another 2 minute wait when you click submit.

        • You've gotta point. However, I seriously seriously seriously doubt this guy checked the other posts before declaring it a dupe.

          I will concede, though, that I'm being unfair to him in particular.

          • No. Your post was actually funny. I was more calling out the person who down-modded him.

            I replied to your post so that my comment would still make sense if the moderation score changed :)

  • Project "forge.mil" is only to be found at the url http://www.disa.mil/forge/ [disa.mil]

    The address forge.mil is unavailable as of now.

    Either does not exist, or has been taken over by the Chinese/Russians, or it has been slashdotted, or it runs on Windows.

    Any of the above, is not a good sign.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Either does not exist, or has been taken over by the Chinese/Russians, or it has been slashdotted, or it runs on Windows.

      It's all of the above. However, this is not a bad thing. Here's why:

      1) the Russians and Chinese may have access to secrets vital to our national security, but we don't really need to worry because the Russians and Chinese are really only interested in supplementing their GDP with income from US military super-computer bot nets... this is a much more valuable industry than espionag
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      There are DNS records for it, so it is supposed to exist.

    • FTA

      One example of the Defense Department's new community-based approach to software development is Forge.mil, which was made generally available for unclassified use within the department in April.

      So, unless you're at a terminal in the DoD, it's probably not gonna work for you.

    • by xTMFWahoo (470364)

      Try https://www.forge.mil/ [forge.mil] it works fine. You must have a DOD CAC or ECA certificate to login.

    • Works here.

      It redirects to http://www.disa.mil/forge/ [disa.mil] which is working fine

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Which in turn has a link to the software - http://www.collab.net/products/sfee/demo/ [collab.net]

        Looks like SoftwareForge isn't FOSS, but Collabnet's TeamForge (which is fair enough, but disappointing as I wanted to run military open-source software, just to tell my boss that if its good enough for the DoD, its good enough for us!

    • https://www.forge.mil/ [forge.mil] works just fine....
  • Kids (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:49PM (#27738449)

    an about-face for such a historically top-down organization

    See the guy in the photo [wikipedia.org] using BRL-CAD to optimize the M1 Abrams battle tank for crushing innocent Iraqi children? He wrote ping, contributed to BIND and other stuff. Go read some RFCs, early ones in particular, and note the number of .mil domains credited and try to imagine how many millions of lines of code made it from those reference implementations into BSD.

    The DOD, particularly through DARPA, has been giving away code longer than most of you have been alive. Please, for the love of fuck, stow your naive preconceptions. You don't know what the hell you're talking about.

    • Re:Kids (Score:5, Insightful)

      by db32 (862117) on Monday April 27, 2009 @07:22PM (#27738817) Journal
      You! With the clue! You are to report for immediate groupthink reprogramming!

      This goes WAY beyond source code. DoD and DARPA have been giving away technology of all varieties for ages. Radar, guidance systems, tons of computing and communications tech, medical technology. Bitch about the military all ya want...but be honest...stop using everything the military has played key role in building. For starters no computers, no internet, no weather reports, no flying, and certainly no trauma treatment in an ER anywhere...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        the only way they could get going in the business was through military funding, though they hated it.

        the fact that the military funds so much creative effort speaks more largely about our society than about the military: that we are only willing to spend money on creative or explorative endeavors if it means finding new and better ways to kill people.

        even the interstate highway system had to be sold as a 'defense program' for it to be funded... all of the people screaming about 'big government' and 'wasted

        • by db32 (862117)
          Yeah totally! I mean...what kind of murderous rampage was the Berlin Airlift after all! If those bloodthirsty Wrights didn't take military funding and build those planes that atrocity could never have happened. I mean...the military is such a one sided cut and dry issue here. Radio allowed us to bomb military and industrial targets much more accurately while greatly reducing civilian loss using triangulation instead of bombadiers trying to see through smoke and hoping that big building was a factory and
      • A former Military General and Secretary of State is also the one who was behind the idea of "Second Sourcing" in government contracts, which is the requirement that you can't rely on any single one supplier to be your sole source for supplies. It's basically that requirement that forced Intel to share trade secrets, training, and patents with its arch rival and enemy AMD -- in order for AMD to be listed as a viable second source for Intel's lucrative defense contracts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Huh? Are you trying to claim that the military give out source code and ideas for some altruistic or moral reasons?

      Think again: works prepared by employees of the U.S. government are uncopyrightable. [wikipedia.org] And that's how it should be. You don't want to give billions of taxpayer money to a military organization and have nothing to show for it.

      Even if they wanted to, the military would have to open source their code and published documents, unless they can figure out a sneaky way to bypass the letter of the law

      • I'm pretty sure they could just keep it classified. The PHBs in Congress sure as fuck wouldn't know better.
      • . . . works prepared by employees of the U.S. government are uncopyrightable. [wikipedia.org] . . .

        Even if they wanted to, the military would have to open source their code and published documents, unless they can figure out a sneaky way to bypass the letter of the law, which happens way too much anyway.

        One doesn't follow from the other. They could simply not release the programs for public use -- doesn't matter whether software is copyrighted if you don't have a copy. They could also declare them classified. Copyright isn't the only thing that could prevent you from distributing software and other documents.

        You could try filing a FOIA request for all the military's closed-source code and documentation, of course. Good luck with that.

  • It might work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AnalPerfume (1356177) on Monday April 27, 2009 @06:57PM (#27738529)
    sudo apt-get remove democratically-elected-but-troublesome-foreign-government
    sudo apt-get install us-friendly-dictator
    sudo apt-get autoremove reporters-who-ask-the-wrong-questions
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2009 @07:09PM (#27738643)

    This isn't supposed to happen until our personel have reached safe distance.

    Bogus: This issue was fixed in SVN 2 months ago.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Monday April 27, 2009 @07:17PM (#27738749) Homepage Journal

    Way back when, I would access the Naval Research Lab's websites for copies of OPIE (a one-time password suite), their IPSec code, their IPv6 code and their IPv4/IPv6 multiprotocol suite.

    These days, they have some nice stuff [navy.mil] in the areas of multicasting, wireless routing and network testing tools.

    Even the DoD's Office of Information Security Research [mit.edu] has done Open Source work before, publishing one of the early IPSec implementations publicly through MIT.

    So other than the DoD finally putting onto a more official level a practice that has been commonplace for decades (the sharing of source under true open source licenses), what exactly is new here? That the politicians at the top of the food chain figured something out? That's just a freak event, a result of the statistical nature of quantum mechanics.

  • "Now drop and give me 0x20!"

  • "An Open Source license" isn't very specific. What's the license?

    If they're proposing GPL3 then it's interesting. If they're proposing MSPL (or whatever that MS license is is called) then I can't see many people bothering. Each license has it's own community, and it makes a lot of difference which one they choose.

    Or are they just going to host a site for projects? If so, what's the criteria for being hosted? Especially, what languages and licenses do they accept? (Google and SourceForge have shown tha

    • The site places no restrictions on language. One of the few requirements is that *all* projects must agree to either 1. a valid OSI license (..yes I know there are alot and they are all acceptable) or 2. a DoD community source license, which places restrictions on redistribution *outside* the DoD and other government organizations and agencies. It's up to the project creator to choose the appropriate license. By pushing for the adoption of this space and its resources, we're hoping to drive restrictive l
  • Forge Mill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Monday April 27, 2009 @08:13PM (#27739357)
    They've got the start of a dark ages town there in the url.

    Anyway- i'd say its a good idea. I don't think they'd use it for anything mission critical, like jet fighter software. Only windows 98 cuts the cake for that kind of high tech business.

    Its a step forward, and its free, so why not?
  • i knew it (Score:3, Funny)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Monday April 27, 2009 @08:28PM (#27739531)
    the Terminator runs on Linux!
  • Seriously?! It's been slashdotted?! The military?
  • If it's open source, then all countries will benefit from it. But military power is all about differential power over your enemies. So, I don't see what this is supposed to accomplish.

  • . . . a good recruiting tool to me.
  • Due to their sensitive nature, defense systems should become MORE proprietary and less open-source. To this day I can't believe we haven't developed an OS and network infrastructure specifically for military and national security uses only. I think the Navy or somebody bought on to that fast-talking pitchman, Ross Perot, and implemented his stuff, but I would take it further. NO contractors at all would be involved (read: government scientists only, and yes, at a huge expense compared to using contractor

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