Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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Department of Defense Support Key to DARPA Successes


(Photo : DARPA) DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar.

The head of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) affirms the unstinting support of the Department of Defense (DoD) for DARPA over the past 60 years has sparked revolutions in a range of technologies.

DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar said DoD support for DARPA's work has "led to stealth, to precision strike, to artificial intelligence, the Internet, and the foundations for modern microelectronics."

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"It happened because of a mission that was the foundation of this organization," she said. "And none of that would have been possible without now six decades of sustained support."

Prabhakar said the roots of DARPA's ability to innovate "lie in a model that says we've constantly focused on the same mission over all these decades, we constantly reinforce our culture."

"But in everything other than mission and culture, we are relentless. We are ruthless about walking away from it and moving on to the next thing ... and that is built into the fact that we are a projects agency."

A project is something that starts and ends, she said. A project's built into the way DARPA brings people in from different parts of the technical community.

These people include technical leaders in their fields; who come with backgrounds in the commercial or defense industry; entrepreneurs or people that have worked in big companies; people from universities; people from every part of the not-for-profit community and from universities.

"They come to DARPA with all of that expertise; all of that drive and brilliance that they bring. But they come for short periods of time -- this idea that you want to be constantly able to refresh and renew," she said.

DARPA puts a critical mass of resources onto projects with big ambitious goals. It works hard to first build into its business processes the ability to take the risks needed to reach for big impact.

Then, they do the work it takes to drive the risk down because ultimately they hand the technologies off to people and companies who take them and make them operational, she noted.

By every measure except DARPA's own mission the world is better, said Prabhakar.

"We've been very successful, but it is now a fact of life that many dimensions of technology ... are being very aggressively driven by the private sector ... and globally and not just in the United States," she added.

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