Thursday CNET News blogger Matt Asay pointed out that the U.S. Department of Defense is on the verge of issuing guidelines for the adoption of open source software within the agency. According to GCN:
The memo should answer many lingering questions still surrounding the open source, said Daniel Risacher, the data strategy leader for the Office of Secretary of Defense who is drafting the memo.
Among other things, the memo explains that open source should be considered "commercial off the shelf" software for purposes of the DoD procurement process, and that open source does not violate the agency's policies against shareware or freeware. Developers have access to the source code with open source, Risacher said. With freeware and shareware, the source code is not always available.
The GCN story also says the memo will address government contribution to open source projects:
The memo will also confirm that it is acceptable for an agency to contribute source code back into a public open source project. It is acceptable, Risacher qualified, assuming the agency has the rights to the code, that releasing the code is in the government's interest and that sharing the code does not violate any other government restrictions.
Unless I misunderstand, it's this part that Asay is so excited about. He says:
A range of software vendors like IBM and HP have policies as to employee contributions to open source projects, for example, but in this case we have a major organization defining the parameters in which its employees can contribute to open source.
Needless to say, he hopes the trend is contagious.