Open source Pentagon?

The most visible aspect of the US military is its role as what Tom Lehrer called America’s “number-one instrument of diplomacy“. Whatever your views of it in that capacity, it is best not to overlook the fact that this very large, well-funded and technologically ambitious organization also affects our lives through its procurement and management practices. You know some of the stories: the invention of the Internet; bringing the production of transistors quickly to a commercially viable scale by mandating their widespread adoption; creating the ISO 9000 quality assurance system for use by its contractors – who, since they included many of the world’s largest corporations, passed them on to thousands of other companies upstream on the supply chain; or, if we go back a couple of centuries, roughly fifty years spent making the concept of interchangeable parts – until then, an un-implementable item of French military doctrine – into an industrial reality (for details on this last, see Hounshell’s great book From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932).

So if the Pentagon really is shifting toward an open-source approach to software development, you know where to lay your bets.