The Department of Homeland Security has started funding a program to help all levels of government better understand open source options for computer software.
DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate will fund the Homeland Open Security Technology (HOST) project, which will start with a one-year, $1.5 million contract and possible additional years to follow. The University of Southern Mississippi and the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI) will conduct the work, and the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command will handle the contracting and help with guidance for the program.
HOST will provide a way for agencies, particularly at the state and local level, to better understand how to use open-source software, said Doug Maughan, a cybersecurity program leader in DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate. Open-source software could make first responder and other homeland security agencies more responsive in their software development.
The potential advantage of open-source software "comes down to agility and cost-savings," Maughan said.
From our perspective, perhaps the most important aspect of this program is that it may result in changing the rules government uses to procure software:
Finally, project leaders will examine how the government currently certifies software, such as the process for validating encryption modules for the Federal Information Processing Standards, Maughan said.
Those processes are mostly geared toward commercial products, and private companies foot the sometimes-expensive bill for certifying a piece of software. As a result, government agencies might not be aware of potentially useful open-source software that has no commercial backer.