DARPA at 60: Director Lays Out Vision for Agency’s Future

By Stew Magnuson

Art: iStock

The director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in order for the organization to meet the high expectations of the nation, and to uphold its reputation as a purveyor of cutting edge technology, it must evolve.

“DARPA must continue to be highly adaptive and agile,” Steven Walker said during the kickoff of the organization’s 60th anniversary celebration at National Harbor, Maryland, on Sept. 5.

Walker laid out four strategic priorities that will maintain DARPA’s ability to “invent the future first.”

The first is to defend the nation against existential threats. That will require completely new capabilities ranging from autonomous cybersecurity, weapon of mass destruction sensing, and defense against natural and man-made bio-threats.

“In addition, because we know peer competitors have been developing hypersonic weapons to thwart our missile defenses, DARPA must understand and build counters to these capabilities,” he said.

DARPA must enable “system of system architectures that will be more resilient to attack, less costly to develop and faster to upgrade when compared to today’s centralized, expensive and over extended monolithic systems,” he said.

The second strategic priority is to provide capabilities for U.S. forces to deter and prevail in large scale conflicts with peer adversaries. That includes “stand-in” scenarios in Europe and “stand-off” scenarios in the Pacific, which will require new thinking, he said.

“We need to disaggregate warfighting assets across all domains and focus on responsive options that enhance our lethality,” Walker said. Space and the electro-magnetic spectrum will be equally important in these scenarios, he added.

The third strategic priority is to more effectively prosecute stabilization efforts. “After 20 years, we are still fighting terrorist and insurgency movements worldwide,” he noted. That will require technology to fight in urban environments, he said.

The final strategic priority underpins all the other missions: foundational research. “We need to continue to win the important tech races of this century: artificial intelligence, advanced microelectronics, synthetic biology, neuro-technology, new computing methodologies and understanding social science better than we do today,” Walker said.

“We need to be the first to understand these new technologies to inform our policy makers on their potential use or misuse and them apply them to the defense of our nation,” he said.


Topics: Research and Development, Intelligence and Surveillance, Infotech, Emerging Technologies, Defense Innovation

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