Pentagon Set to Make Push Toward Open Source Software Next Year
via The Verge
Nestled hundreds of pages into the proposed bill to fund the Department of Defense sits a small, unassuming section. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 is the engine that powers the Pentagon, turning legislative will into tangible cash for whatever Congress can fit inside. Thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds of (R-SD) and co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), this year the NDAA could institute a big change: should the bill pass in its present form, the Pentagon will be going open source.
“Open source” is the industry term for using publicly accessible code, published for all to see and read. It’s contrasted with “closed source” or “proprietary” code, which a company guards closely as a trade secret. Open source, by its nature, is a shared tool, much more like creative commons than copyright. One big advantage is that, often, the agreements to run open-source software are much more relaxed than those behind proprietary code, and come without licensing fees. The license to run a copy of Adobe Photoshop for a year is $348; the similar open-source GNU Image Manipulation Program is free.
We don’t typically think of the Pentagon as a software-intensive workplace, but we absolutely should. The Department of Defense is the world’s largest single employer, and while some of that work is people marching around with rifles and boots, a lot of the work is reports, briefings, data management, and just managing the massive enterprise. Loading slides in PowerPoint is as much a part of daily military life as loading rounds into a magazine.
Besides cost, there are two other compelling explanations for why the military might want to go open source. One is that technology outside the Pentagon simply advances faster than technology within it, and by availing itself to open-source tools, the Pentagon can adopt those advances almost as soon as the new code hits the web, without going through the extra steps of a procurement process.
Open-source software is also more secure than closed-source software, by its very nature: the code is perpetually scrutinized by countless users across the planet, and any weaknesses are shared immediately.
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.