October 28, 2009, 5:21 PM — The U.S Department of Defense is not only encouraging use of open source applications, it recently open-sourced an enterprise human resources application that has over a million lines of code.
This isn't the first time the DOD has released code to the public. In June, a PC-based mapping application developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute for the military, FalconView , was also made available as open source.
In short, the DOD is making use of open-source applications a two-way street, and there may be more DOD-funded open-source software on the way.
There's evidence of a new, aggressive tone being set by the department's top CIO, David Wennergren, on open source use. A memo he wrote this month encourages adoption of open source and pointedly said that open source can "provide advantages" to the department's need to update its software "to anticipate new threats and respond to continuously changing requirements."
But Wennergren's memo, intended to ease adoption hurdles among defense agencies, comes just after the Pentagon's IT unit, the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) , has released under as open source a human resource and workforce management system that includes about 50 applications.
It's a system that has been in development since 1997 that is Web-based and was moved in 2005 to Adobe's ColdFusion platform and Microsoft SQL Server.
The human resource system DISA is comprehensive. The agency won't put a value on it, but there are seven developers supporting it and they have continued to build out new capabilities that are used to help manage its workforce of 16,000 people.
Most recently, DISA's development team built tools that provide targeted notifications and some new personnel management capabilities. They were designed to be used in the event of an emergency and were just recently tested it as part of a pandemic planning scenario. In this test, telework for employees in the Washington was expanded, which is a process that also uses DISA s telework management application.
Why build applications when you can buy software? Richard Nelson, DISA's chief of personnel systems support branch at its Manpower, Personnel and Security Directorate, said his IT team always looks for the commercial options first, and if the government decides to build instead of buy one of four things have happened: The commercial provider wanted too much money, the application didn't suit DISA's architecture, the system didn't meet federal processes and required extensive modification, or the provider told DISA "that what we wanted to have was not possible, so we built it ourselves," Nelson said.