Letter: Military should bring development back in-house

Regarding “Navy to focus only on open systems”: This is a nice thought, but unrealistic. There are no open-source or closed-source applications that do exactly what the Navy wants them to do out of the box. The same holds true for the Air Force and Army.

For the applications to work, they must be customized to meet the business needs of the Navy.

Lets take a simple example: databases. The Navy can say we will no longer use Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server databases. Instead, we will only use PostgreSQL, SQLite and MySQL. They are open source and maintained by a large community of developers.

That's great. Say they install the databases on their servers. But wait, they need to have tables generated to hold data. What data? Data from the applications we use? What applications might those be? Our budget and finance applications. You mean the ones that were configured based on Oracle Federal Financials? Yes. Those are tied directly into the Oracle Database and Application Server. Then let’s get an open-source version of Financials. That's a great idea — I'll search SourceForge.net to see if I can find one. (Downloads phpFinancials and installs on existing *nix box.)

OK, sir, here it is. Where is my data? We have to import it. The forms don't look like the old ones. We have to modify them to look the same. I'm not getting the reports I need that compare last year’s budget with this year’s. We’ll need to write one of those. When can you have it done? In about two years. We better hire some contractors to speed things up.

Six years later, we have a proprietary Navy accounting and finance system built on top of outdated open-source software.

It doesn't matter if the Navy, Army or Air Force uses open- or closed-source software, it’s still going to cost the taxpayer an arm and a leg to fund it because no two organizations within these agencies do business the same way. Everyone wants to customize the software to function the way they have been doing business for the last 50 years. Everyone wants to build their own little empire and forgets the true mission of our military.

The military needs to stop hiring contractors and bring the development back in-house.

Anonymous


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