Pentagon Agency Thrives on In-Your-Face Science

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Science  03 Sep 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5433, pp. 1476-1479
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5433.1476

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For 41 years, the Defense Department's $2 billion research agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has given a small group of program managers extensive power to direct high-risk, and sometimes wacky, research projects, in sharp contrast to the larger and more mainstream science agencies, which use peer-review panels to pick grant winners and then stay out of a researcher's way. Although some researchers grumble that DARPA's approach is heavy-handed, its unorthodox management style has had some spectacular successes, including the Internet, night-vision goggles, and radar-evading stealth aircraft. And it's winning converts in Congress and at some federal science agencies, notably the National Institutes of Health.