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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DARPA Logo.jpg
Agency overview
HeadquartersArlington, Virginia, U.S.
Annual budget2.8 billion[1]
Agency executiveArati Prabhakar, Director[2]
Parent agencyDepartment of Defense
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This article is about the US military research agency. For other uses, see DARPA (disambiguation).
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DARPA Logo.jpg
Agency overview
HeadquartersArlington, Virginia, U.S.
Annual budget2.8 billion[1]
Agency executiveArati Prabhakar, Director[2]
Parent agencyDepartment of Defense
DARPA's former headquarters in the Virginia Square neighborhood of Arlington. This agency recently moved to 675 North Randolph Street, near the Ballston Common Mall.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major effect on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.

DARPA began as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) created in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower 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.[3] The administration was responding to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957, and DARPA's mission was to ensure U.S. military technology be more sophisticated than that of the nation's potential enemies. From DARPA's own introduction:[4]

DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies.

ARPA was renamed to "DARPA" (for Defense) in March 1972, then renamed "ARPA" in February 1993, and then renamed "DARPA" again in March 1996.

DARPA is independent from other more conventional military research and development and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) directly managing a $3 billion budget. These figures are "on average" since DARPA focuses on short-term (two to four year) projects run by small, purpose-built teams.


DARPA achievements for the past 50 years

Early history[edit]

The creation of DARPA was authorized by President 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.,[3] the two relevant acts being the Supplemental Military Construction Authorization (Air Force)[5] (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.

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 which 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).[6] "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."[7][8]

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).[9]

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.[10] 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.

Later history[edit]

The Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research (through ARPA/DARPA) to projects with direct military application. Some[who?] contend that the amendment devastated American science, since ARPA/DARPA was a major funding source for basic science projects of the time; the National Science Foundation never made up the difference as expected.

The resulting "brain drain" is also credited with boosting the development of the fledgling personal computer industry. Many young computer scientists fled from the universities to startups and private research labs like 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).

Recent history[edit]

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.

On October 28, 2009 the agency broke ground on a new facility in Arlington, Virginia a few miles from the Pentagon.[11]

In fall 2011, DARPA hosted the 100-Year Starship Symposium with the aim of getting the public to start thinking seriously about interstellar travel.[12]

DARPA History
The Formative Years
The Cold War Era
The Post-Soviet Years


Key characteristics[edit]

According to former DARPA Director Tony Tether and W. B. Bonvillian (“Power Play”, W. B. Bonvillian, The American Interest, Volume II, p 39, November–December 2006), DARPA's key characteristics to be replicated to reproduce DARPA's success are:[13]

Current program offices[edit]

DARPA has seven program offices, all of which report to the DARPA director:

Former offices[edit]

A 1991 reorganization created several offices which existed throughout the early 1990s:[20]

Reorganization in 2010 merged two offices:


Active projects[edit]

Past projects[edit]

Notable fiction[edit]

ARPA/DARPA is well known as a high-tech government agency, and as such has many appearances in popular fiction. Some realistic references to ARPA in fiction are in Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X (DARPA consults on a technical threat),[53] in episodes of television program The West Wing (the ARPA-DARPA distinction), the television program Numb3rs[54] (DARPA research into creating the first self-aware computer), and in the motion picture Executive Decision (use of a one-of-a-kind experimental prototype in an emergency). It is also in the movie Chain Reaction, starring Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman.[citation needed]

Other references often attribute to DARPA an operational or political role, in addition to its high-tech responsibilities. Examples are the Matthew Reilly books Temple and Hell Island, the James Rollins Sigma Force book series, and the video game series Metal Gear Solid, as well as the video games Infamous, Vanquish, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction. DARPA also appears in three novels by Andy McDermott, The Search for Excalibur, The Covenant of Genesis and The Empire of Gold.[citation needed] The institution Dharma Initiative in the series Lost bear a resemblance to DARPA more than in the name.


  1. ^ Shachtman, Noah (2012-02-14). "Darpa Dodges Obama Budget Death Ray, Keeps Its Billion". Wired. Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  2. ^ Shachtman, Noah (2012-07-10). "Exclusive: Darpa Gets a New Boss, and Solyndra Is in Her Past". Wired. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  3. ^ a b Dwight D. Eisenhower and Science & Technology, (2008).Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, Source.
  4. ^ "DARPA: Bridging The Gap Powered By Ideas". 2005. 
  5. ^ Fiscal Year 1958 Supplemental Military Construction Authorization (Air Force): Hearings, Eighty-fifth Congress, Second Session, on H.R. 9739.. January 21, 24, 1958.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Helen E. Worth and Mame Warren (2009). Transit to Tomorrow. Fifty Years of Space Research at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. 
  7. ^ Catherine Alexandrow (Apr 2008). "The Story of GPS". 
  8. ^ DARPA: 50 Years of Bridging the Gap. Apr 2008. 
  9. ^ Stefanie Chiou, Craig Music, Kara Sprague, Rebekah Wahba (5 Dec 2001). "A Marriage of Convenience: The Founding of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory". 
  10. ^ "Oral History: Bertram Raphael". IEEE Global History Network. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  11. ^ Washington Times, "Pentagon Agency Breaks Ground", October 29, 2009.
  12. ^ Casey, Tina (2012-01-28). "Forget the Moon Colony, Newt: DARPA Aims for 100 Year Starship". CleanTechnica. Retrieved 2012-08-25. 
  13. ^ Statement by Dr. Tony Tether (Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities (House Armed Services Committee – United States House of Representatives) on March 13, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (archived August 2, 2008) section DARPA as a model in which he says this is content he agrees with that he is repeating from “Power Play,” W. B. Bonvillian, The American Interest, Volume II, p 39 (November–December 2006).
  14. ^ Susan Nichols, "Overview", DARPA SBIR Presentation (March, 2009), Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)
  15. ^ DSO Official homepage
  16. ^ a b http://www.darpa.mil/offices.html DARPA Offices. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
  17. ^ "Falcon". DARPA. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. 
  18. ^ "Airlaunchllc News". Airlaunch. 
  19. ^ http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2014/04/01.aspx
  20. ^ "DARPA restructures/creates new offices". Defense Daily. 1991. 
  21. ^ http://www.hpcwire.com/2010/09/22/embedded_clouds_a_look_back_at_hpec_2010/
  22. ^ http://schedule.sxsw.com/2014/events/event_IAP28839
  23. ^ Transformer (TX) darpa.mil. Retrieved: 4 August 2010.
  24. ^ DARPA seeks information on manned UAV mothership - Flightglobal.com, 11 November 2014
  25. ^ Warwick, Graham (2012-06-25). "Darpa Revisits Air Launch With Focus On Cost". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 
  26. ^ a b c Ferster, Warren (2013-05-17). "DARPA Cancels Formation-flying Satellite Demo". Space News. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 
  27. ^ a b c Gruss, Mike (2014-03-21). "DARPA Space Budget Increase Includes M for Spaceplane". Space News. Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  28. ^ Shachtman, Noah (2012-02-14). "Darpa's Magic Plan: ‘Battlefield Illusions' to Mess With Enemy Minds". Wired. 
  29. ^ http://www.bostondynamics.com/dist/BigDog.wmv
  30. ^ DARPA calls on industry to develop compact, push-button wall - MarineCorpstimes.com, 5 July 2014
  31. ^ https://www.fbo.gov/download/82f/82f6068978da5339752c89d2f65d89ca/CRASH_BAA_20100601_RC3.pdf
  32. ^ DARPA’s Plan to Flood the Sea With Drones, Carrying More Drones - Wired.com, 13 September 2013
  33. ^ Meshworm: DARPA, MIT robot a sluggish breakthrough in soft robotics
  34. ^ "DARPA Kicks Off Mind's Eye program". Darpa.mil. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  35. ^ Military Wants Next Generation Night Vision Goggles - Kitup.Military.com, 30 September 2014
  36. ^ Next-gen night vision would enable troops to see farther, clearer - Armytimes.com, 12 October 2014
  37. ^ Graham Warwick (2013-01-23). "Darpa Touts Progress On GEO Satellite Recycling Concept". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  38. ^ Ewen Callaway (2009-10-01). "Free-flying cyborg insects steered from a distance". New Scientist. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  39. ^ Warwick, Graham (May 22, 2009). "Darpa Plans Triple-Target Missile Demo". Aviation Week. 
  40. ^ DARPA, Navy want long-range ISR drones for smaller ships - Defensesystems.com, 13 June 2014
  41. ^ "CAN YOU DESIGN, BUILD AND FLY THE NEXT-GENERATION UAV?". Darpa.mil. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  42. ^ Pentagon plans to seed ocean floor with payloads waiting to be activated - Defensesystems.com, 27 March 2014
  43. ^ DARPA’s ULTRA-Vis Augments Reality For Foot Troops - Breakingdefense.com, 21 May 2014
  44. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (2013-02-25). "Darpa Wants to Rethink the Helicopter to Make It Go Way Faster". Wired. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  45. ^ DARPA's Warrior Web project may provide super-human enhancements - Army.mil, 5 May 2014
  46. ^ "STO: WolfPack". Darpa.mil. Strategic Technology Office. Retrieved 2010-04-04. [dead link]
  47. ^ DARPA IIO
  48. ^ A history of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, Martin-Baker. Retrieved 4 August 2010
  49. ^ "DARPA Network Challenge". Darpa.mil. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  50. ^ "DARPA Spectrum Challenge". Darpa.mil. Retrieved 2014-06-10. 
  51. ^ Carnegie-Mellon University
  52. ^ "DARPA Shredder Challenge". DARPA. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  53. ^ Victor Appleton II, 1961. Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X, originally published by Grosset & Dunlap of New York, now re-published by Project Gutenberg. ARPA is referred to on page 68 published 1961
  54. ^ Numb3ers, Season 1, Episode 5, and Season 5, Episode 17

See also[edit]

External Links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]