— Regina E. Dugan American businesswoman, inventor, and technology developer 1963
Context: Over the past 50 years, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has produced an unparalleled number of breakthroughs. Arguably, it has the longest-standing, most consistent track record of radical invention in history. Its innovations include the internet; RISC computing; global positioning satellites; stealth technology; unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones”; and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), which are now used in everything from air bags to ink-jet printers to video games like the Wii. Though the U. S. military was the original customer for DARPA’s applications, the agency’s advances have played a central role in creating a host of multibillion-dollar industries.
What makes DARPA’s long list of accomplishments even more impressive is the agency’s swiftness, relatively tiny organization, and comparatively modest budget. Its programs last, on average, only three to five years.