How the US Department of Defense Is Using Open Source

How the US Department of Defense Is Using Open Source

The U.S. Department of Department of Defense has been incrementally adopting open-source software and methodologies to improve efficiency and reduce costs. In a session at the Open Source Summit on Aug. 31, Jordan Kasper of the Defense Digital Service (DDS) outlined the steps the DoD has taken thus far and some of the lessons learned.

One of the greatest benefits of open source is the ability to easily reuse code, Kasper said. With open-source language frameworks in particular, developers can rapidly become productive by reusing code elements, he added.

"You don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can just find something someone else has done and you can get up to speed very quickly," he said.

At the DoD, finding solutions to complex problems rapidly is essential, according to Kasper. For example, there are times when the DoD has to come up with technology in a very short period of time to prevent loss of life. Building everything from scratch using custom code takes significantly longer than reusing existing open-source code elements.

"Vulnerabilities are much easier to find in open source code and are much easier to patch," he said. "Patches can come in at a speed that is much faster than with proprietary code."

By open sourcing more of its code, the DoD can be more secure, Kasper said, though he noted that one of the things that he commonly hears from people is that open source is in fact insecure. The argument is that if the code is open source, then anyone will be able to see it and know how to hack it.

For the DoD, the effort to open-source code is tracked under the website, which includes guidelines, policies and project tracking features. Among the tools that the DoD has open-sourced is a malware detection tool for executable binaries. Across the U.S. government, the site also has a help wanted open listing of areas where help is needed to advance certain projects and add various features.


How the Department of Defense Is Using Open Source
At the Open Source Summit, Jordan Kasper of the Defense Digital Service outlined the reasons why it makes sense for U.S. government agencies and others to embrace the open-source model.

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