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The Military GNU is Not Unix

Open Source Software In the Military 91

JohnMoD writes With the advent of, etc. the military seems to be getting on board with free and open source software. A working group meeting is going to be held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, August 12-13, 2009. There's a pretty good lineup of speakers including a Marine from the Iraq-Marine Expeditionary Forces, who was on the ground and saw the agility open source gave to him and his soldiers. A number of OSS projects are going to be meeting there: Delta 3D, OpenCPI, FalconView, OSSIM, Red Hat, etc. Looks like there will be some good discussions."
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Open Source Software In the Military

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    See; with the military now realizing the destructive potential of OSS people hopefully now realize the true danger posed by this dangerous concept!

  • PLA Daily [] ("China Military Online") is brought to us by Apache, so it would appear that at least one military has already got on board with free and open source software. I'd guess that the PLA could deliver better coding value for money to the Pentagon than could KBR.

  • and do I honestly think I'll ever see any of this stuff?

    Absolutely not. They have civilian contractors to do all the cool stuff. I'm a network administrator who is denied administrative rights. My MOS (job classification) is an E4 and out position. Basically I have no chance of attaining any leadership skills in my job. Big change from when I joined six years ago. I'm seriously considering leaving communications for something that I can actually advance in, even if I wouldn't be as happy in it, but I could

    • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @09:07AM (#28747217)

      and do I honestly think I'll ever see any of this stuff?

      Absolutely not. They have civilian contractors to do all the cool stuff. I'm a network administrator who is denied administrative rights

      How many of those civilian contractors are veterans who used to do your job when they were in the military? Just because the government decided to use civilian contractors doesn't mean you don't have a career path, it's just not necessarily one that stays in the military.

    • Go to warrant officer school. Communications warrants do a lot of this stuff. I did quite a bit of network admin work as a communications officer too, but we were National Guard and I was mostly conscripted into that for my civilian skills. I don't think active duty communications officers get to do that much.

    • The Air Force just finished a program to open source Falcon View [], which is about the coolest, most comprehensive mapping/GIS program out there.

      The Alpha is still pretty rough, and a lot of the cool aerial refueling/bombing run tools are obviously not in there anymore, but it is a tool utilized widely in all the branches that just came open source. Big accomplishment if you ask me!

      Not affiliated. I had utilized it extensively in the past, and was missing having it at my new contractor job....then the
    • Did you use "blueforce tracker" or "FBCB2"? Then you HAVE seen it. It's BSD, X, and Gnome. There's tons of stuff in service like that.

      And you sort of have a choice: leadership in the combat arms like the Infantry or technical skills in places like Signal. Or you can be a pouge who acts all hardcore, even though an 11B PFC has boots with more roadmarch miles than you.

      • Or you can be a pouge who acts all hardcore, even though an 11B PFC has boots with more roadmarch miles than you.

        Its POG (as in Person other-than grunt) not pouge... you obviously dont know what you talking about because grunts can barely read let alone follow /.

        Also the only real grunts are Marines not soldiers (which the summary calls us) get a job boot.

        Army Strong []

        • LOL...nice. But no, pouge wasn't an acronym. It was retroactively created by people who need acronyms to remember anything.

          Like my buddy. He got kicked out of the marines. They caught him reading a book. "Hey, this thing ain't got no pictures!"

          Marines are grunts like...the marines at JCOT? The travel agents of Iraq. Like the marines in the MCX? The sales associates "in country". Like the marines that bring the FOB mail around? And all the marines guarding the chowhall at camp cupcake and TQ?Semper Fool, dev []

    • Sorry, youngster (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Basically I have no chance of attaining any leadership skills"

      I fear that you don't understand what "leadership" is. If you wish to learn about leadership, and you are not learning, that is your failure, not the failure of the military, the boy scouts, an employer, or even your parents. I would ask first, how many courses are you enrolled in? If you answer "none", then it is obvious that you DON'T wish to learn leadership, but instead, you only want to bellyache about the military. Which is fine with m

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by destuxor ( 874523 )

      My MOS (job classification) is an E4 and out position. Basically I have no chance of attaining any leadership skills in my job. Big change from when I joined six years ago. I'm seriously considering leaving communications for something that I can actually advance in, even if I wouldn't be as happy in it, but I could be wrong about that.

      I'm guessing you're a 25B in a Signal unit.

      Trust me, there are a lot of ways you can learn leadership skills as an E-4. How many SOP's have you written? How many Soldiers h

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

        Never mind what he's done, can I have your recipe for acronym soup?

        • Never mind what he's done, can I have your recipe for acronym soup?

          Laughing out loud (literally)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          25B - Information Technology Specialist
          SOP - Standard Operating Procedure
          SIGO - Signal Officer (Guy in charge of communications in a line unit, aka combat unit)
          CDR - Commander
          PL - Platoon Leader
          BN - Battalion
          BDE - Brigade
          PLT - Platoon
          DOIM - Directorate of Information Management
          ESB - Expeditionary Signal Battalion
          COMSEC - Communications Security
          SIPRNET - Secure (or Secret) Internet Protocol Router Network (As opposed to NIPRNET, or as they call it now LandWarNet, AKA the Internet)
          JNN - Joint Network Node

  • Free as in speech.

    Free as in beer.

    Free as in free to blow the shit out of something.

  • by Kavli ( 762663 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @09:32AM (#28747337)

    Having worked for the Royal Dutch Navy for several years as a programmer and software architect, I'm impressed by their use of open source software on board their combat platforms. For instance, the Landing Platform Dock 2, HrMs Johann de Witt, uses GNU/Linux as a main component in the Combat Management System. Other platforms, including their submarines also uses various degrees of open source in combination with older proprietary systems.

    • I would really love to hear your opinion about the other Royal (UK) navy's use of Windows on Destroyers and Nuclear submarines and even (kind of) bragging about it. []

      I mean, if it is not non ethical or anything else stops you.

      What is your guess? Do they use Windows clients to a real operating system like UNIX or it is actually pure Windows? What would Dutch army/ask say if you went crazy and proposed using Windows replacing *NIX? They

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Kavli ( 762663 )

        I won't start a discussion about the choice that the Royal Navy did.

        All I can say is that the technical management at CAWCS/Force Vision never saw Microsoft as a viable alternative. At least as long as I was working there.
        But sure, we used other operating systems as well. Among those OpenVMS and Solaris 7 and 8. Most of the development was done on Sun/Solaris.
        We even had Windows systems for office support, but on a physically isolated network.

        As a former external consultant I'm not speaking for t

  • I've been teaching Eclipse [] Plug-in and RCP development [] to US Military and Defense organizations and contractors, as well as for the Australian government, for the past 3 years.

    As long as the open source product can be proven as a secure technology, I don't see why the government wouldn't adopt it, especially if there are little to no licensing fees for its use.
  • NMCI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @10:07AM (#28747495)

    I know that a number of Navy scientists have scratched their heads regarding why the NMCI [] abomination [] used Windows rather than Linux on the desktop.

    I wonder if they'll smarten up when they roll out NGEN, which will replace NMCI.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by steve-san ( 550197 )
      Don't hold your breath. Although the Federal Desktop Core Config (FDCC) [] only mandates *security settings* for federal gov't XP/Vista machines, many IT PHBs have taken it as a mandate to USE Windows for the desktop environment. Hard to blame them, if you just go by the title of the program. I mean, where's the Linux FDCC, or the Mac version? Oh, that's right... they don't exist (yet).

      Add to that the fact that AD, Exchange, SharePoint, OCS (among others) are de-facto standards across the DoD, and you c
  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @10:44AM (#28747665)

    If anyone caught Gen. Patraeus's briefing last week, I forget where it was but it was a public briefing, he constantly referred to Microsoft. Usually, the phrasing went something like, "if Microsoft will allow this". I noted that several of his slides were a bit odd in that there were arrows that really pointed no where and had no information content that I could discern. In the Q&A afterward, he actually pointed out the MS person who helped him create the slides. That would explain the totally useless arrows. But I was struck that MS actually has a representative to help the brass do Powerpoint. Until that changes, DoD will always be enthralled by MS and their Powerpoint bulletpoints.

    Just as a brief aside, there is a Stargate SG-1 episode where the General has been replaced by some other Air Force General and he calls O'Neill into his office to complain about the fonts and the fact that he'd prefer there be more bullet points in his report. The look on O'Neill's face was just too good.

  • by grandpa-geek ( 981017 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @11:01AM (#28747769)

    Several years ago there was a series of conferences on F/OSS in government sponsored by George Washington University. There were several presentations made on use of F/OSS by DoD. They included the certification of F/OSS for use in command-control systems, the use of F/OSS in weapons systems, and other applications. Topics addressed included interpretation of terms of the GPL when F/OSS is used in systems for which DoD secrecy requirements apply to the software. (In that case, distribution within DoD and its contractor community is treated as internal to the user and not subject to general disclosure.)

    The conferences included numerous presentations about F/OSS is government, including health care and a wide variety of other areas. DoD was just as active as other agencies in using it.

  • But i signed up for applications like this when i agreed open source was a terrific achievement for the community. war is a terrible application for something so geared toward the greater good, but freedom as in speech means some are bound to say things others dont like.

    I can only hope open source can lead us away from wars entirely some day.
  • Al: Uh-oh, quick! Should we use gnuke, knuke, or just bare-bones nuke?
    Bob: Ah, definitely not knuke, it screws up at least half of the commands it sends to nuke. Maybe gnuke, it's at least a competent front-end, but it's missing a bunch of the functionality of nuke -- the dev got bored and was pulled onto another project. But the command-line for nuke is so obtuse that it will take two or three tries just to get the command right, and those first two bad commands might be worse than not using it at al
  • by ritzer ( 934174 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @01:37PM (#28748659) Journal
    Anyone on this forum heard of TCP/IP? Maybe I am getting old, but I remember the internet as a DARPA project. Source got distributed and ported to whatever you OS you happened to be using. Sounds like open source to me.
  • It's not sad to see it appear trollish when really it does not have much relevance at all to the topic at hand. Any moron can throw posts all over that say, "WOOO!! Go !"



  • Resistance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WhoIsThatDork ( 987578 ) on Sunday July 19, 2009 @10:03PM (#28751999)

    I've been working as a software developer in a military research lab for about 7 years. My primary area of work is development of middleware to allow interoperability between DoD systems that otherwise have no such capability. I'm a big proponent of using general open source solutions as well as the military having their own "open source" for situations that might not be appropriate for public distribution, but are very relevant across the entire DoD.

    The resistance always comes in people guarding their products, ultimately to protect jobs and/or profit. The contracting companies have their stovepipe systems, and typically they want to be the sole source of development/maintenance. Even government entities keep things closed off from one another; I've had many instances where I've been told to either partially distribute or not distribute DoD-owned software (including source) when requested by another element of the DoD. Too many people are worried about their intellectual property, which makes it very difficult to tear down these political barriers. This ultimately results in the exact same functionality being developed many times over, which I've seen all too often. We're making some progress, but it's going to take significant buy-in from someone high up (read: with star(s) on their shoulder) to push the agenda. Otherwise, it continues to be a large amount of talk without much in the way of results.

    Speaking of large amount of talk, I recently met with one of the key speakers at the aforementioned conference (Major James D. Neushul). This individual is a risk to adoption of open source principles...not because he opposes them, but because his mouth exceeds his knowledge. He speaks largely in buzzwords and jumps between concepts as soon as you corner him on the technical inaccuracies of his claims, but he does so with fervent insistence of his correctness. At one point in our discussion, he actually stated that the ideal solution right now is for every computer, down to the individual warfighter level, to be running an instance of a web server and use web applications. He also wrote the "specification" for an XML version of a widely-used bit-oriented messaging format (VMF), except he didn't write schemas, but rather a description of how one should make the schemas. It's a pretty scary stance to assume that a set of tag-naming rules is going to result in compatibility of all the independently developed schemas. It's unfortunate that this individual is probably going to alienate many skilled and otherwise open-supporting engineers....such as myself and my entire engineering team, all of whom are on-board with opening up DoD capabilities...yet none of us can tolerate his sloppy, bravado-laden approach.

  • Some Marines get pretty offended when they're called "soldiers."
  • The US Military is currently all abuzz about OSS. Ecspecially the top leaders. They see that OSS development teams are managing to be successful in areas where military acquisition programs are failing. Software development in a military acquisition program is a painstakenly slow process. Software revisions take years on major acquisition programs. Quick patching of even serious bugs is impossible and even if it were possible can cost millions. Furthermore, the software is not sustainable. The software that

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"