DARPA Releases Strategic Plan 2007


DARPA (the defense advanced research projects agency) has released its 2007 strategic plan.  This magnum opus of military future tech neatly lays out the priorities and plans for this amazing agency that has led to so much medical innovation.  I will summarize the key points of the report in a series of posts and tie these in to the medical breakthroughs that may result.  For those in need of background you can read about the Army & DARPA’s future soldier Landwarrior program and its medtech offshoots here as well as why DARPA does medical research and development that industry won’t.

Why the report was issued:

(To) describe the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) strategy,as required by Section 2352, Title 10 of the United States Code. It provides a top-level view of DARPA’s activities for Congress, the research community, and various elements of the Department of Defense (DoD).  This strategic plan describes DARPA’s mission, business processes, research thrusts and objectives, and research projects that achieve the objectives. 

DARPA’s Mission: 

DARPA’s original mission, inspired by the Soviet Union beating the United States into space with Sputnik, was to prevent technological surprise. This mission has evolved over time.  Today, DARPA’s mission is to prevent technological surprise for us and to create technological surprise for our adversaries. Stealth is one example of how DARPA created technological surprise.

The concept of strategic thrusts:

DARPA’s strategy for accomplishing its mission is embodied in strategic thrusts. Over time, as threats and opportunities change, DARPA’s strategic thrusts evolve. Today there are nine strategic thrusts, detailed in Section 3, that are key national security research areas building the foundations for innovative joint warfighting capabilities to defeat existing and emerging national security threats. DARPA’s main tactic for executing its strategy is to constantly search worldwide for revolutionary high-payoff ideas and then sponsor projects that bridge the gap between fundamental discoveries and the provision of new military capabilities.

Bridging the Gap between Near and Far (-term developments)


DARPA looks beyond today’s known needs and requirements. As military historians note, “None of the most important weapons transforming warfare in the 20th century – the airplane, tank, radar, jet engine, helicopter, electronic computer, not even the atomic bomb – owed its initial development to a doctrinal requirement or request of the military.”  None of them. Adding to this list, DARPA can include unmanned systems, stealth, the global positioning system (GPS), which was preceded by a DARPA system called Transit, and Internet technologies.  DARPA’s approach is to imagine what capabilities a future military commander might need and
accelerate those capabilities into being through technology demonstrations. These could not only provide options to the commander, but also change minds about what is technologically possible today and how current and future objectives could be met. DARPA often “works the seams” among the military Services to develop new and truly joint capabilities that no military Service could or would support by itself.

You can read the full text of the 2007 report here. 

Stay tuned for my in-depth analysis of the report…

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