|Formed||February 7, 1958(as ARPA)|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||Arlington, Virginia, U.S.|
|Annual budget||$3.427 billion (2019)|
|Parent department||United States Department of Defense|
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.
Originally known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the agency was created on February 7, 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957. By collaborating with academic, industry, and government partners, DARPA formulates and executes research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science, often beyond immediate U.S. military requirements.
DARPA-funded projects have provided significant technologies that influenced many non-military fields, such as computer networking and the basis for the modern Internet, and graphical user interfaces in information technology.
DARPA is independent of other military research and development and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA comprises approximately 220 government employees in six technical offices, including nearly 100 program managers, who together oversee about 250 research and development programs.
The name of the organization first changed from its founding name, ARPA, to DARPA, in March 1972, changing back to ARPA in February 1993, then reverted to DARPA in March 1996.
Currently, their mission statement is "to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security".
The creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 for the purpose of forming and executing research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science, and able to reach far beyond immediate military requirements, the two relevant acts being the Supplemental Military Construction Authorization (Air Force) (Public Law 85-325) and Department of Defense Directive 5105.15, in February 1958. Its creation was directly attributed to the launching of Sputnik and to U.S. realization that the Soviet Union had developed the capacity to rapidly exploit military technology. Initial funding of ARPA was $520 million. ARPA's first director, Roy Johnson, left a $160,000 management job at General Electric for an $18,000 job at ARPA. Herbert York from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was hired as his scientific assistant.
Johnson and York were both keen on space projects, but when NASA was established later in 1958 all space projects and most of ARPA's funding were transferred to it. Johnson resigned and ARPA was repurposed to do "high-risk", "high-gain", "far out" basic research, a posture that was enthusiastically embraced by the nation's scientists and research universities. ARPA's second director was Brigadier General Austin W. Betts, who resigned in early 1961. He was succeeded by Jack Ruina who served until 1963. Ruina, the first scientist to administer ARPA, managed to raise its budget to $250 million. It was Ruina who hired J. C. R. Licklider as the first administrator of the Information Processing Techniques Office, which played a vital role in creation of ARPANET, the basis for the future Internet.
Additionally, the political and defense communities recognized the need for a high-level Department of Defense organization to formulate and execute R&D projects that would expand the frontiers of technology beyond the immediate and specific requirements of the Military Services and their laboratories. In pursuit of this mission, DARPA has developed and transferred technology programs encompassing a wide range of scientific disciplines that address the full spectrum of national security needs.
From 1958 to 1965, ARPA's emphasis centered on major national issues, including space, ballistic missile defense, and nuclear test detection. During 1960, all of its civilian space programs were transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the military space programs to the individual services.
This allowed ARPA to concentrate its efforts on the Project Defender (defense against ballistic missiles), Project Vela (nuclear test detection), and Project AGILE (counterinsurgency R&D) programs, and to begin work on computer processing, behavioral sciences, and materials sciences. The DEFENDER and AGILE programs formed the foundation of DARPA sensor, surveillance, and directed energy R&D, particularly in the study of radar, infrared sensing, and x-ray/gamma ray detection.
ARPA at this point (1959) played an early role in Transit (also called NavSat) a predecessor to the Global Positioning System (GPS). "Fast-forward to 1959 when a joint effort between DARPA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory began to fine-tune the early explorers’ discoveries. TRANSIT, sponsored by the Navy and developed under the leadership of Dr. Richard Kirschner at Johns Hopkins, was the first satellite positioning system."
During the late 1960s, with the transfer of these mature programs to the Services, ARPA redefined its role and concentrated on a diverse set of relatively small, essentially exploratory research programs. The agency was renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972, and during the early 1970s, it emphasized direct energy programs, information processing, and tactical technologies.
Concerning information processing, DARPA made great progress, initially through its support of the development of time-sharing (all modern operating systems rely on concepts invented for the Multics system, developed by a cooperation among Bell Labs, General Electric and MIT, which DARPA supported by funding Project MAC at MIT with an initial two-million-dollar grant).
DARPA supported the evolution of the ARPANET (the first wide-area packet switching network), Packet Radio Network, Packet Satellite Network and ultimately, the Internet and research in the artificial intelligence fields of speech recognition and signal processing, including parts of Shakey the robot. DARPA also funded the development of the Douglas Engelbart's NLS computer system and The Mother of All Demos; and the Aspen Movie Map, which was probably the first hypermedia system and an important precursor of virtual reality.
The Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research (through ARPA/DARPA) only to projects with direct military application.
The resulting "brain drain" is also credited with boosting the development of the fledgling personal computer industry. Some young computer scientists left the universities to startups and private research laboratories such as Xerox PARC.
Between 1976 and 1981, DARPA's major projects were dominated by air, land, sea, and space technology, tactical armor and anti-armor programs, infrared sensing for space-based surveillance, high-energy laser technology for space-based missile defense, antisubmarine warfare, advanced cruise missiles, advanced aircraft, and defense applications of advanced computing. These large-scale technological program demonstrations were joined by integrated circuit research, which resulted in submicrometer electronic technology and electron devices that evolved into the Very-Large-Scale Integration (VLSI) Program and the Congressionally-mandated charged particle beam program.
Many of the successful programs were transitioned to the Services, such as the foundation technologies in automatic target recognition, space based sensing, propulsion, and materials that were transferred to the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), later known as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), now titled the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
During the 1980s, the attention of the Agency was centered on information processing and aircraft-related programs, including the National Aerospace Plane (NASP) or Hypersonic Research Program. The Strategic Computing Program enabled DARPA to exploit advanced processing and networking technologies and to rebuild and strengthen relationships with universities after the Vietnam War. In addition, DARPA began to pursue new concepts for small, lightweight satellites (LIGHTSAT) and directed new programs regarding defense manufacturing, submarine technology, and armor/anti-armor.
In 1981, two engineers, Robert McGhee and Kenneth Waldron, started to develop the Adaptive Suspension Vehicle (ASV) nicknamed the "Walker" at the Ohio State University, under a research contract from DARPA. The vehicle was 17 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 10.5 feet high, and had six legs to support its three-ton aluminum body, in which it was designed to carry cargo over difficult terrains. However, DARPA lost interest in the ASV, after problems with cold-weather tests.
On February 4, 2004 the agency shut down its so called "LifeLog Project". The project's aim would have been, "to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does".
On June 5, 2016, NASA and DARPA announced that it planned to build new X-planes with NASA's plan setting to create a whole series of X planes over the next 10 years.
Between 2014 and 2016, DARPA shepherded the first machine-to-machine computer security competition, the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), bringing a group of top-notch computer security experts to search for security vulnerabilities, exploit them, and create fixes that patch those vulnerabilities in a fully-automated fashion.
In June 2018, DARPA leaders demonstrated a number of new technologies that were developed within the framework of the GXV-T program. The goal of this program is to create a lightly armored combat vehicle of not very large dimensions, which, due to maneuverability and other tricks, can successfully resist modern anti-tank weapon systems.
In September 2020, DARPA and the US Air Force announced that the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) are ready for free-flight tests within the next year.
The formative years
The Cold War era
The Post-Soviet years
DARPA has six technical offices that manage the agency's research portfolio, and two additional support offices that manage special projects and transition efforts.[clarification needed] All offices report to the DARPA director, including:
A 1991 reorganization created several offices which existed throughout the early 1990s:
A 2010 reorganization merged two offices:
A list of DARPA's active and archived projects is available on the agency's website. Because of the agency's fast pace, programs constantly start and stop based on the needs of the U.S. government. Structured information about some of the DARPA's contracts and projects is publicly available.
DARPA is well known as a high-tech government agency, and as such has many appearances in popular fiction. Some realistic references to DARPA in fiction are as "ARPA" in Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X (DARPA consults on a technical threat), in episodes of television program The West Wing (the ARPA-DARPA distinction), the television program Numb3rs, and the Netflix film Spectral.
The threat is real enough that the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded a Media Forensics project aimed at finding ways to automatically screen for Deepfake videos and similarly deceptive examples of digital media.