ability to adapt rapidly to changing environments and to seek and embrace
in both technology and in processes, while maintaining the historically proven
principles of the Agency, makes DARPA the crown jewel in Defense R&D and a
unique R&D organization in the world.
DARPA Over the Years,
(later ARPA) is the innovative R&D organization that funded the development
1957, only twelve years after publication of Arthur C. Clarke's seminal
paper describing the idea of satellites, the Soviet Union launched the first
satellite, Sputnik I, beating the United States into space. This meant that the
USSR could theoretically launch bombs into space and then drop them down anywhere
on earth. The American military became highly alarmed.
In 1958, President
Dwight Eisenhower appointed MIT President James
Killian as Presidential Assistant for Science and created the Advanced
Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to jump-start U.S. technology and find safeguards
against a space-based missile attack. The
US military was particularly concerned about the effects of a nuclear attack on
their communications infrastructure, because if they couldn't communicate, they
wouldn't be able to regroup or respond, thereby making the threat of a first strike by
the Soviet Union more likely.
To meet this need, ARPA established the IPTO
in 1962 with a mandate to build a survivable computer network to interconnect
the DoD's main computers at the Pentagon,
and SAC HQ. As described in the following pages, this initiative led to the development
of the ARPANET seven years later, and then to the NSFNET
and the Internet we know today. ARPA
also funded some of the early networking research done by Lawrence
Roberts, who later became the ARPANET Program Manager.
ARPA had unique authorization and direction
to make quantum jumps in technology using any means they believed appropriate.
For example, they had the unusual mandate to use research before it had been peer-reviewed,
since the peer-review process prevented mistakes but slowed down progress. It worked -- within
18 months of its creation ARPA developed and deployed the first US satellite.
From its inception ARPA significantly funded many US university research labs,
and as early
as 1968 had a close relationship with Carnegie-Mellon
Stanford University, UCB,
University of Illinois,
and the University
of Utah, as well as leading industry labs including Bolt
Beranek and Newman, Computer
of America, Rand,
and Systems Development Corporation. Most of these labs were connected to the
ARPANET soon after it was created in order to enable cross-fertilization of research
In the early 1970's the word "Defense" was prefixed to the name, and ARPA became known as DARPA. By the late 1990's, DARPA reported to the Director for Defense
Research and Engineering and had about 250 staff and a budget of US$2
billion. A typical project was funded with between ten and forty million dollars
over a period of four years, and drew support from several consultants and one or two universities. An excerpt from a 1997 description of the organization is provided below:
has been to assure that the U.S. maintains a lead in applying state-of-the-art
technology for military capabilities and to prevent technological surprise from
DARPA organization was as unique as its role, reporting directly to the
of Defense and operating in coordination with but completely independent of the
military research and development (R&D) establishment.
support from the senior DoD management has always been essential
since DARPA was
designed to be an anathema to the conventional military and R&D structure
and, in fact, to be a deliberate counterpoint to traditional thinking and approaches.
DARPA Over the Years,
DARPA program managers have always had complete control over program funding, unprecedented flexibility in management capabilities, and direct responsibility for making their program a success. A description of the role of a DARPA program manager from 1977 is provided below. Send in your application
The DARPA environment
is one of the most demanding and electric in the government. It is where people
who want to make a difference come to invest 4 years in public service as a program
ideal program manager is technically deep, with excellent but eclectic technology
taste, usually seasoned by five or more years of accomplishment in industry, the
military, or academia. An outstanding technical foundation is needed to triumph
over unforeseen problems or to pounce on opportunities at the frontiers of knowledge.
manager must be able to integrate, innovate, and readily accept new ideas proposed
by others. The program manager formulates a vision for the program, positions
and advocates the program within the context of DARPA's overall mission, charts
a course for the near- and long-term accomplishments necessary to reach the program
objectives, and manages all technical, procurement, and financial aspects of the
program. The ideal program manager must complement technical excellence with management
and leadership skills, including people skills, public speaking skills, project
management experience, careful financial management skills, the ability to make
timely decisions, and a sense of controlled urgency.
one in government has more constructive power than a DARPA program manager. Spend
four years at DARPA as part of your career. It will change the way you view the
world. It will be a service to your technical community and to the Nation. You
can move the world, if you stand in the right place.
DARPA Manager, Original from August 1977.