This article is about the US military research agency. For other uses, see DARPA (disambiguation).
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Agency overview
Formed February 7, 1958 (1958-02-07) (as ARPA)
Headquarters Arlington, Virginia, U.S.
Employees 240
Annual budget US $2.97 billion[1]
Agency executive
Parent agency U.S. Department of Defense
Website www.darpa.mil
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 U.S. Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.

DARPA was created in February 1958 as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Its purpose was to formulate and execute research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science, with the aim to reach beyond immediate military requirements.[3] The administration was created in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957, and DARPA's mission was to ensure U.S. military technology would be more sophisticated than that of the nation's potential enemies.

The name of the organization changed several times from its founding name ARPA: DARPA (March 1972), ARPA (February 1993), and DARPA (March 1996).

DARPA is independent from other military research and development and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has about 240 employees, of whom 13 are in management, and close to 140 are technical staff.

DARPA-funded projects have provided significant technologies that influenced many non-military fields, such as computer networking and graphical user interfaces in information technology.


DARPA characterizes its mission as follows:[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 US enemies.


DARPA achievements for the past 50 years

Early history

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,[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. Initial funding of ARPA was $520 million.[6] ARPA's first director, Roy Johnson, left a $160,000 management job at General Electric for an $18,000 job at ARPA.[7] Herbert York from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was hired as his scientific assistant.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] Ruina, the first scientist to administer ARPA, managed to raise its budget to $250 million.[11] 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 the ARPANET – the basis for the future internet.[12]

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.[13] 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).[14] "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."[15][16]

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).[17]

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.[18] 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

The Mansfield Amendment of 1973 expressly limited appropriations for defense research (through ARPA/DARPA) only to projects with direct military application. Some 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. Some young computer scientists left the universities to startups and private research labs 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).

Recent history

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.[19]

In fall 2011, DARPA hosted the 100-Year Starship Symposium with the aim of getting the public to start thinking seriously about interstellar travel.[20]

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.[21]

In July 2016, it was announced that DARPA would bring a group of top-notch computer security experts to search for security vulnerabilities and create a fix that patches those vulnerabilities and it is called the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC).[22]

DARPA History
The formative years
The Cold War era
The Post-Soviet years


Current program offices

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

Former offices

A 1991 reorganization created several offices which existed throughout the early 1990s:[28]

Reorganization in 2010 merged two offices:



Adaptive Execution Office

The Adaptive Execution Office (AEO) is chartered to accelerate game-changing DARPA technologies into DoD capabilities. AEO provides the agency with robust connections to the warfighter community and assists the agency with the planning and execution of technology demonstrations and field trials to promote adoption by the warfighter.

Biological Technologies office

The mission of the Biological Technologies Office (BTO) is to foster, demonstrate, and transition breakthrough fundamental research, discoveries, and applications that integrate biology, engineering, and computer science for national security. BTO seeks to establish and invest in new communities of scientific interest at the intersection of traditional and emerging disciplines. Its investment portfolio goes far beyond life sciences applications in medicine to include areas of research such as human-machine interfaces,[31] microbes as production platforms, and deep exploration of the impact of evolving ecologies and environments on U.S. readiness and capabilities. BTO’s programs operate across a wide range of scales, from individual cells to complex biological systems including mammalian and non-mammalian organisms and the macro- and micro-environments in which they operate.

Defense Sciences Office

The Defense Sciences Office (DSO) identifies and pursues high-risk, high-payoff fundamental research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines – sometimes reshaping existing fields or creating entirely new disciplines – and transforms these initiatives into radically new, game-changing technologies for U.S. national security. Information Innovation Office Program Managers: Wade Shen (as of December 2014), Stuart Wagner (as of September 2014), Steve Jameson (as of August 2014), Angelos Keromytis (as of July 2014), John Launchbury (as of July 2014), David Doermann (as of April 2014).

Active projects

Past projects

Notable fiction

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),[75] in episodes of television program The West Wing (the ARPA-DARPA distinction), the television program Numb3rs[76] (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).

See also


  1. "Budget". Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. n.d. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  2. Shachtman, Noah (2012-07-10). "Exclusive: Darpa Gets a New Boss, and Solyndra Is in Her Past". Wired. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  3. 1 2 Dwight D. Eisenhower and Science & Technology, (2008).Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, Source.
  4. "DARPA: Bridging The Gap Powered By Ideas" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. 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. "$ 520 million appropriation and a $ 2 billion budget plan." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (p. 20). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  7. "Roy Johnson, ARPA’s first director, was, like his boss, a businessman. At age fifty-two, he had been personally recruited by McElroy, who convinced him to leave a $160,000 job with General Electric and take an $18,000 job in Washington." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (p. 21). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  8. "Herbert York, whom Killian had been keen on, was given the job and moved to ARPA from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (p. 21). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  9. "The staff of ARPA saw an opportunity to redefine the agency as a group that would take on the really advanced “far-out” research....The scientific community, predictably, rallied to the call for a reinvention of ARPA as a “high-risk high-gain” research sponsor— the kind of R& D shop they had dreamed of all along" Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (pp. 21,22). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  10. "In early 1961 ARPA’s second director, Brigadier General Austin W. Betts, resigned" Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (pp. 23,24) Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  11. "Ruina raised ARPA’s annual budget to $ 250 million." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (p. 23). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  12. "J. C. R. Licklider." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (pp. 27–39). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
  13. "Projects in ballistic missile defense and nuclear test detection, couched in terms of basic research, were the top priorities." Lyon, Matthew; Hafner, Katie (1999-08-19). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet (p. 23). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition
  14. Helen E. Worth; Mame Warren (2009). Transit to Tomorrow. Fifty Years of Space Research at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (PDF).
  15. Catherine Alexandrow (Apr 2008). "The Story of GPS".
  16. DARPA: 50 Years of Bridging the Gap. Apr 2008.
  17. Stefanie Chiou; Craig Music; Kara Sprague; Rebekah Wahba (5 Dec 2001). "A Marriage of Convenience: The Founding of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory" (PDF).
  18. "Oral History: Bertram Raphael". IEEE Global History Network. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 2012-02-25.
  19. Washington Times, "Pentagon Agency Breaks Ground", October 29, 2009.
  20. Casey, Tina (2012-01-28). "Forget the Moon Colony, Newt: DARPA Aims for 100 Year Starship". CleanTechnica. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  21. Grady, Mary (June 5, 2016). "NASA and DARPA plan to release new X-Planes". Yahoo Tech. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  22. Howley, Daniel (17 July 2016). "Darpa to create Cyber Grand Challenge to fight security vulnerabilities". Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  23. DSO Official homepage
  24. 1 2 http://www.darpa.mil/offices.html DARPA Offices. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
  25. "Falcon". DARPA. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22.
  26. "Airlaunchllc News". Airlaunch. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14.
  27. http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2014/04/01.aspx
  28. "DARPA restructures/creates new offices". Defense Daily. 1991.
  29. "Embedded Clouds: A Look Back at HPEC 2010". HPCwire. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  30. "Schedule – sxsw.com". SXSW Schedule 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  31. Dr. Justin Sanchez interviewed on the TV show Triangulation on the TWiT.tv network
  32. Jetpacks Help Soldiers Run At The Speed Of Olympic Athletes – Businessinsider.com, 12 September 2014
  33. Transformer (TX) darpa.mil. Retrieved: 4 August 2010.
  34. DARPA seeks information on manned UAV mothership – Flightglobal.com, 11 November 2014
  35. New Budget Will Feature 6th Gen Fighter – Defensenews.com, 28 January 2015
  36. Shachtman, Noah (2012-02-14). "Darpa's Magic Plan: 'Battlefield Illusions' to Mess With Enemy Minds". Wired.
  37. You, J. (2015). "DARPA sets out to automate research". Science. 347 (6221): 465. doi:10.1126/science.347.6221.465.
  38. DARPA calls on industry to develop compact, push-button wall – MarineCorpstimes.com, 5 July 2014
  39. https://www.fbo.gov/download/82f/82f6068978da5339752c89d2f65d89ca/CRASH_BAA_20100601_RC3.pdf
  40. DARPA invites industry to explore collaborative UAV technology – Flightglobal.com, 23 January 2015
  41. Pentagon issues call for drones that hunt like a pack of wolves – Defensesystems.com, 22 January 2015
  42. What It Feels Like to Shoot With the Military’s Experimental Smart Scope – Gizmodo.com, 28 April 2015
  43. The Military Wants Swarm Bots It Can Retrieve in Midair – Defenseone.com, 28 August 2015
  44. DARPA solicits tender for UAV urban operation algorithms – Flightglobal.com, 23 December 2014
  45. DARPA’s Plan to Flood the Sea With Drones, Carrying More Drones – Wired.com, 13 September 2013
  46. "Meshworm: DARPA, MIT robot a sluggish breakthrough in soft robotics". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  47. "DARPA Kicks Off Mind's Eye program" (PDF). Darpa.mil. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  48. DARPA N-ZERO program seeks to reduce or eliminate need for standby power on unattended sensors – Militaryaerospace.com, 9 February 2015
  49. Military Wants Next Generation Night Vision Goggles – Kitup.Military.com, 30 September 2014
  50. Next-gen night vision would enable troops to see farther, clearer – Armytimes.com, 12 October 2014
  51. DARPA Develops Mountable One Shot Sniper System – Kitup.Military.com, 8 February 2014
  52. 1 2 Ferster, Warren (2013-05-17). "DARPA Cancels Formation-flying Satellite Demo". Space News. Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  53. Graham Warwick (2013-01-23). "Darpa Touts Progress On GEO Satellite Recycling Concept". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-01-25.
  54. 1 2 Gruss, Mike (2014-03-21). "DARPA Space Budget Increase Includes M for Spaceplane". Space News. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
  55. Ewen Callaway (2009-10-01). "Free-flying cyborg insects steered from a distance". New Scientist. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  56. Warwick, Graham (May 22, 2009). "Darpa Plans Triple-Target Missile Demo". Aviation Week.
  57. DARPA unveils new SoSITE program for maintaining air superiority – Airrecognition.com, 1 April 2015
  58. DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies program looks to create smarter, more aware infantry squads – Gizmag.com, 10 February 2015
  59. Murtha, Alex. "DARPA develops pocket-sized, affordable, networked radiation sensor". Homeland Preparedness News (26 August 2016). Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  60. Raytheon wins DARPA TBG contract modification – Shephardmedia.com, 4 May 2015
  61. DARPA, Navy want long-range ISR drones for smaller ships – Defensesystems.com, 13 June 2014
  62. "CAN YOU DESIGN, BUILD AND FLY THE NEXT-GENERATION UAV?". Darpa.mil. 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  63. Pentagon plans to seed ocean floor with payloads waiting to be activated – Defensesystems.com, 27 March 2014
  64. DARPA’s ULTRA-Vis Augments Reality For Foot Troops – Breakingdefense.com, 21 May 2014
  65. Ackerman, Spencer (2013-02-25). "Darpa Wants to Rethink the Helicopter to Make It Go Way Faster". Wired. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  66. DARPA's Warrior Web project may provide super-human enhancements – Army.mil, 5 May 2014
  67. "STO: WolfPack". Darpa.mil. Strategic Technology Office. Archived from the original on 4 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  69. A history of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, Martin-Baker. Retrieved 4 August 2010
  70. http://www.bostondynamics.com/dist/BigDog.wmv
  71. "DARPA Network Challenge". Darpa.mil. Archived from the original on 2011-08-11. Retrieved 2010-04-04.
  72. "DARPA Spectrum Challenge". Darpa.mil. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
  73. "I3 Initiative Home Page". Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  74. "DARPA Shredder Challenge". DARPA. Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  75. 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
  76. Numb3ers, Season 1, Episode 5, and Season 5, Episode 17

Further reading

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