Building Open Source Software in the DoD

I had the opportunity to speak yesterday at the DoD Open Technology conference in DC. I proposed to the contractors in the room that they don’t need to wait for the government to force them to open code through initiatives like the Navy’s SHARE repository. I think they should improve their market positions by proactively using their copyright on source written under government contract and open it themselves. ITAR aside, opening it up and intentionally commoditizing it (ala IBM and the Apache web server circa 1997’ish) is a good business move.

I’ll go even further, I think there is a moral obligation to offer code written under government contract as a public good whenever possible (though sometimes with a temporal shift to the right). LIke the gallium arsenide chips in our cell phones, to the civilian nuclear industry fathered by Hyman Rickover’s nuclear Navy, there is lots of historical precedent for thinking this way (argue amongst yourselves whether Rickover’s legacy is a wholly positive one).

I’ll try to write more about this later but for now, if you are interested, you can take a look at reasonably self-explanatory slides below.


  1. James Lorenzen - December 13, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

    Would you mind sharing any interest your audience showed? Did anyone ask questions pertaining to our experience? Or you can leave this answers for later if that is what you meant by “I’ll right more about this later”.

  2. Jim S - December 14, 2007 @ 9:45 am

    Hey James, the audience response was mostly very positive, though a little bit polarized. Probably at least a few people thought I had been smoking too much crack.

    People had lots of questions about how we went through the ITAR release process.

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