Mitre, a not-for-profit engineering and IT organization that works with the US federal government, has recommended that the US Department of Defense take steps to encourage open-source software in the department's infrastructure.
A report published on Monday found that what it terms FOSS (free and open-source software) "plays a more critical role in the DoD than has been generally recognized," and noted that if open source was banned the department's security would plummet and costs would rise sharply.
Mitre's report, called Use of Free and Open-Source Software in the US Department of Defense, addresses an increasingly urgent issue: what stance governments should take with regard to open-source software. Because it is freely distributable, open-source software has often come into wide use within governments without having to be officially endorsed.
Recently, proprietary software companies such as Microsoft have labeled open-source software a threat and have called its use into question. At the same time, some governments -- such as those of France and Germany--have begun encouraging open-source procurement as a way of limiting their dependence on proprietary software makers and stimulating local software development.
Software distributed under open-source licenses can be freely modified and redistributed, as long as the modifications are returned to the community. This autonomy from the software vendor is useful for the Defense Department because it speeds the process of responding to threats, but it also creates ambiguities, Mitre said.
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News source: Shacknews