Open source serves as linchpin to modernization: Justice

Open-source strategies improve command, control and communications in theater

The use of open-source software is making a difference on the ground in combat zones, and it’s proving increasingly necessary to keep up with rapidly evolving technology and requirements, Maj. Gen. Nick Justice, commanding general of the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command said Nov. 16.

Using open source, the Army can integrate technologies tailored to mission requirements on essentially an as-needed basis, and at a lower cost than traditional approaches, Justice said at the Red Hat Government Symposium in Washington.

“What we need is infrastructure that can be modernized but doesn’t cost a fortune to re-engineer every time new technology comes out – open source let us do that,” he said.

Justice gave examples of how open source has become critical in on-the-ground operations, and noted that it’s used in a number of combat platforms for command, control and communications. But it hasn’t necessarily been an easy road to get there, starting with the earliest days of the Iraq invasion.

“Five days after we invaded Iraq, I had 15 minutes to migrate to a completely different communications infrastructure or every combat vehicle in the field would have gone dark, meaning they wouldn’t have command and control. That’s how rapidly the world expects us to respond. That’s the world today,” he said.

With military budgets dwindling, open-source technologies are even more important as the government and the Defense Department look to IT to cut costs. It’s especially essential for mission requirements – and its use is pervasive throughout and even beyond operations, Justice said.

“I can’t put a box on a combat vehicle and have to pay an integration charge that is often orders of magnitude more expensive than the technology I’m integrating,” he said. “Open source is not just about an IT infrastructure in the cloud and databases… it’s in intelligence sensors and support systems. It is the operating system in science, technology, engineering and math. “

He added that open-source strategies fit well with goals outlined in former Deputy Defense Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Ashton Carter’s "Better Buying Power" memo that targets efficiencies while improving operations and acquisition.

“Better Buying Power builds the case for open source,” he said. “It helps us empower, unburden and protect the warfighter.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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