U.S. Federal Government Embraces Open Source

by Sebastian Benthall

The U.S. government is definitively over open source software fear.

First, though it’s no real surprise, they are switching whitehouse.gov to use Drupal. You probably heard about it on Boing Boing already. It’s not that big a surprise, because everyone knows Obama loves everything open, and Drupal is the content management system of choice for big organizations with big websites and little in-house expertise.

But more surprising, and more significant, is the Department of Defense’s memo clarifying its relationship to open source. Its preamble opens:

“To effectively achieve its mission, the Department of Defense must develop and update its software-based capabilities faster than ever, to anticipate new threats and respond to continuously changing requirements. The use of Open Source Software (OSS) can provide advantages in this regard. This memorandum provides clarifying guidance on the use of OSS and supersedes the previous DoD CIO memorandum dated May 28, 2003.”

So it’s now acknowledged that it is sometimes in the interest of national security to use open source, for precisely the reasons the open source movement has been talking about for so long: more eyeballs with fewer bugs, no vendor lock-in, and adaptability by your own coders to scratch your own itches, lower costs, etc.

Chalk it up to open source having “won the argument.”