Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)


FLC Region

Security Lab



3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203-1714
United States

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Laboratory Representative


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 as the first U.S. response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik. Since that time DARPA's mission has been to assure that the U.S. maintains a lead in applying state-of-the-art technology for military capabilities and to prevent technological surprise from her adversaries. The DARPA organization was as unique as its role, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense and operating in coordination with, but completely independent of, the military research and development (R&D) establishment. Strong support from the senior DoD management has always been essential since DARPA was designed to be an anathema to the conventional military and R&D structure and, in fact, to be a deliberate counterpoint to traditional thinking and approaches.

Some of DARPA's more important characteristics include:
  • Technical staff drawn from world-class scientists and engineers with representation from industry, universities, government laboratories and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers;
  • Technical staff assigned for 3-5 years and rotated to assure fresh thinking and perspectives;
  • Project based -- all efforts typically 3-5 years long with strong focus on end-goals. Major technological challenges may be addressed over much longer times but only as a series of focused steps. The end of each project is the end. It may be that another project is started in the same technical area, perhaps with the same program manager and, to the outside world this may be seen as a simple extension. For DARPA, though, it is a conscious weighing of the current opportunity and a completely fresh decision. The fact of prior investment is irrelevant;
  • Necessary supporting personnel (technical, contracting, administrative) are hired on a temporary basis to provide complete flexibility to get into and out of an area without the problems of sustaining the staff. This is by agreement with Defense or other governmental organizations (military R&D groups, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, etc.) and from System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors.

Technology Disciplines

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Methods of producing hydrogen via the water-gas shift reaction over a Pd-Zn catalyst

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