The Defense Department has ushered in a new era of government involvement in Open Source software by opening Forge.mil, the DoD equivalent of SourceForge.
The Department of Defense has built its repository on the same technology used by SourceForge, itself a project available on the SourceForge site. In keeping with its mission, the Forge.mil project has added a layer of security that does not exist in the original project. According to DoD sources, the project software has been upgraded to meet Department of Defense standards, including the use of smartcards for system authorization.
DoD personnel have been working on the new open source system since October, according to an FCW.com article. It was announced at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) meeting in late January by David Mihelcic, the chief technology officer for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Mihelcic confirmed the pedigree of the system by saying, “It is really is SourceForge.net upgraded to meet DOD security requirements.”
There are currently only three projects in Forge.mil, but that number is expected to grow. As is true with many open source projects, some are expected to come out of left field. Mihelcic told the story of one of the three projects, named Bastille, which is intended to automate server configuration. Mihelcic says, “Our intern had to stand up 50 Linux machines in a lab and he said, ‘Boy I don’t want to do this by hand; why can’t I use Bastille to do this for me? He looked at Bastille and saw it couldn’t do all the things he needed, so he started an open-source project. He got folks like Red Hat to jump in and participate.”
The code for Bastille, like all Forge.mil code, is open for viewing by the public, even though only those that are behind the improved security can edit or contribute to the code source. Mihelcic fully expects that once people start looking at the code, some will wish to contribute. He is almost certainly correct. That is exactly the way that civilian open source projects gain momentum. It is exceedingly nice to see our government involved in so active a way in the open source movement.