Washington Isn't Swooning Over Open Source - InformationWeek

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Washington Isn't Swooning Over Open Source

The Office of Management and Budget sees advantages in open-source computing, but it's not recommending a retreat from Windows.

Despite strong pleas from some open-source proponents for the government to encourage the use of open-source software, at the exclusion of proprietary wares (read: Windows), Washington isn't about to upset the status quo.

Office of Management and Budget associate director Mark Forman, the nation's de facto CIO, says each agency's needs will decide whether to go open source. "We don't have a policy view in applying open source versus commercial licenses in software," Forman says. "It would make sense to use something more open-source than something proprietary if an agency has a J2EE architecture. But, for enterprise applications, such as ERP or financial-management systems, using proprietary software would likely be more appropriate."

Forman sidestepped the debate about whether open-source-based apps are more secure than those based on big-target operating systems (read: Windows). "I don't make blanket statements," he says. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader--who met last spring with Forman's boss, OMB director Mitch Daniels--argues that relying on Windows apps on the desktop makes the federal government more vulnerable to computer viruses and hacking. Forman gave no indication the OMB would adopt Nader's proposal.

Yet, Forman sees value in open source. "There's a lot of intellectual capital coming out of that community, and we've got a lot of government IT folks helping create that intellectual capital," he said. "They're creating business value ... and no doubt we'll take advantage of that. We'll look at the risks and benefits. Clearly, open source will be part of that decision."

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