Why I Stopped Promoting Linux in Government

Posted by tadelste on Mar 29, 2006 10:35 AM EDT
LXer; By Tom Adelstein
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I received an email from a close friend asking me to help educate the city manager in Tuttle, OK about Linux. I told him I prefer finishing a "hack" on securing SSH. Here's why I'm through orchestrating efforts for Linux in Government.

For a couple of years, I wrote exclusively for Linux Journal on Linux in Government. I found many government units deploying Linux and other GNU software in critical infrastructure around the world. Spurred by community members I specialized in the government arena.

I had no idea of the depth and breathe of Microsoft's operations in Government. As some might characterize their operations, they hide under the cover of darkness. They operate where no one can see them. Don't buck them, they employ people who can take your life.

My first glimpse of the dangers inherent in tackling government adoption occurred when a state senator asked me as a specialist to look at ways to cut budget dollars in a deep hole called the Department of Information Services.

That senator filed a bill that specified the state consider the total cost of ownership including life-cycle maintenance costs, the costs associated with risk issues, including security and privacy of data, and the costs of ensuring security of the IT system itself.

Essentially, we wanted to stop budget cuts in social services and shift the revenues from dead IT projects currently drawing budget money to the general fund.

In my opinion, all hell broke loose. I have never seen so many alter-egos, shills and groups invented by Microsoft to stop free software adoption in government. I have also never seen as many dumb and dumber people occupying important positions in government.

I started three open source efforts. They included governmentforge.org, the Open Government Interoperability Project and a LAMP project called Leopard. The players in the government arena essentially took those ideas and put them in their own projects one of which is Core.gov and the other called Government Open Code Collaborative.

I would characterize the people involved in these type of organizations as nasty bureaucrats. I have never met one of them who cared about the people they serve. The ones I have met only care about their careers. They would cut the heart out of the person in the next office in a minute. I saw this as an intern at the Library of Congress, as an auditor in a DoD Management and Operations contractor, as a Oracle Financials documentation specialist at a DoE facility where I found misappropriations that ran about 50% and how they kept them off the books.

Here's how they did it. The DOE used something called a WBS or work breakdown structure. When a cost accounting manager of a segment in the current year went over budget, he would find another cost accounting manager to transfer his overages into a future year. When they reached that future year, they would be out of money and would then make a request for additional funds. That's how projects have cost overruns and end up costing multiples of the original appropriation. It gets worse though. These crooks do it off the books and outside the computerized system. They have a person they trust keep manual records of these cost accounting transactions and they often pay that person.

Did I give up. You bet I did. One of the champions of Linux and free software in a major state agency chose to purchase Windows XP desktops for everyone in the agency. I've heard that man speaking at National Conventions for Government CIOs exalting the benefits of free software.

I have read the serenity prayer several times in my life. It goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.


I decided to use the wisdom I gained in a lifetime of experience to accept the things I can't change. I also think that anyone in America who believes our government cares about us lives in a dream world. I don't care if you're a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or whatever. The people running for office are politicians. They don't listen and they don't care.

Does that mean I won't muckrake, write and investigate? No, it doesn't mean that. I just won't work with politicians who claim they want to save our citizens money, keep jobs in the US and help all people in the US survive above the poverty level.

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