I think a lot of the issues Auld_Besom has can be solved if the ports tree would also have a -RELEASE instead of only HEAD. If I remember correctly there was some talk about this some time ago. People that want to can still track the current HEAD, while others can take a -RELEASE and only get security updates. I'm not sure what happened to that discussion but I can imagine it's been shelved for lack of resources.
Point is, FreeBSD is currently offering huge repository of ports (after Debian, but Debian has overchopped many applications, so it's inflated artificially) and there is no, nor there will ever be enough manpower to offer scrutiny comparable to base system.
After all, it's alien to port system idea too. Think of it, it's a collections of simple scripts trying to be minimal and using just vanilla sources. It will always be a hobbyist/wizard thing. It is what it is (I personally like it, mainly for using vanilla sources and most of the time additions kept up to minimum.)...
But it will never be industry grade-binary repo similar to RHEL, there is just not enough manpower.
To be fair, there is "something" as port release. There was feature freeze in ports leading up to 9.1, which was lifted now. So one could use packages distributed only with 9.1, treating them as "released". However, reality is, port system is more akin of -STABLE or -CURRENT thing. That's price for fresh software.
If it would depend on me, I would delegate _more_ of the base to ports (yes, e.g. BIND), leaving just _base_ things, to focus on them, moreover this is good idea to me http://wiki.freebsd.org/FreeBSD-ng-detail , and would totally leave release engineering of binary-industrial-grade packages to interested (possibly financially, why not) third party!
adamk, well I like that you can actually run FreeBSD on newer intels. Most of linux numerical success now stems from this, that linux was hobbyist system at home for future sysadmin, and he just doesn't know any better. Not supporting any newer cards will not help it.
Sorry, but I think I must add this also. I don't remember last time I had problem with ports. I just don't install lots of crap... Port system eases you into installing lots of software, but shouldn't fool you into thinking they do not inherently (by design) suck (DE in broad sense for me).
FreeBSD should just focus on providing slim excellent base, true to the original spirit of UNIX, not necessarily try to be released _product_ for all-and-every-possible-scenario enduser.