The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major impact on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.
Its original name was simply Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), but it was renamed DARPA (for Defense) on March 23, 1972, then back to ARPA on February 22, 1993, and then back to DARPA again on March 11, 1996.
DARPA was established in 1958 (as ARPA) in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957, with the mission of keeping U.S. military technology ahead of the nation's enemies. From DARPA's own introduction:
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 our enemies.
DARPA is independent from other more conventional military R&D and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) directly managing a $3.2 billion budget. These figures are "on average" since DARPA focuses on short-term (two to four-year) projects run by small, purpose-built teams.
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