A report in Federal Times, an independent newsweekly for managers in the federal government that generally covers policy and political developments, says that security problems and excessive reliance on products from Microsoft Corporation are causing the government to look more closely at alternatives. According to the report, senior Clinton administration officials are seeking to diversify the types of operating systems used by the federal government.

"One of the areas we are very interested in looking at is open-source code," a senior White House official allegedly told Federal Times.

The National Security Council is working to evaluate different solutions that would make greater use of non-proprietary open-source software, where the "codes" (as the report puts it) are not secret. The cost and benefits of open source solutions will be evaluated, along with any technical obstacles. There is growing concern in the government, the report says, that Microsoft's software is vulnerable to hacker attacks and viruses.

Though open source operating systems can be found in a limited capacity in government agencies such as NASA and the Energy Department, there are currently no large government Linux contracts. Microsoft's desktop and server software, however, is found all over the government. And contrary to the report in Federal Times, the government has had a long-term goal of buying easy-to-use, off-the-shelf software.

In a related story, the U.S. Army has allegedly moved its Web site from Windows NT 4.0 to, if you can believe this one, a Macintosh running Webstar. I've been unable to verify this, however, though the Marines are still using NT 4.0 and IIS. The Air Force is running Apache on Linux while the Navy is using Apache on Solaris. According to this latest urban legend, the U.S. Army went with the Macintosh because it has no command line interface and is not Web-savvy, making it more secure, if you can follow that twisted logic. I'll be looking into this one more closely, of course