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DARPA FACES SENATE AXE

Under increased scrutiny for a series of controversial programs, the Pentagon's far-out research arm has had its proposed budget for next year slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars in the Senate.Some of the cuts to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were expected: Lawmakers have been trying for the better part of a year to excise the notoriously far-reaching Terrorism Information Awareness database program.But others seem to have come out of regulatory left field. Widely hailed research into using the brain to control robotic limbs, and training the mind to function on little or no sleep, will come to an end if the Senate's version of the Defense Department Appropriations bill becomes law."Darpa got too much of the wrong kind of publicity, the kind that invites mockery and ridicule, and now the agency is paying the price," Steven Aftergood, with the Federation of American Scientists, wrote in an e-mail.My Wired News article examines what gets lost if the cuts go through.THERE'S MORE: As reported here in June -- and in the current Village Voice -- the Senate Armed Services Committee has ordered an investigation into Darpa and other military research centers, to see whether the labs are sticking to their charters of funding fundamental science.AND MORE: "We all may pay the price if DARPA's budget is slashed," writes Phil Carter. "The overwhelming majority of DARPA projects go nowhere -- but they do stimulate research in basic science and applied science areas that would otherwise not be funded. To some extent, we all benefit from this kind of scientific research, just as we benefit from basic science research done on the MIT or Berkeley campuses. For decades, DARPA has been one of the most vibrant federal agencies in existence with respect to innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. It has also spurred development in universities and the private sector through its creative ideas and funding grants. We will all suffer if this agency takes a big hit."AND MORE: "Some DARPA programs may be worthwhile, such as one to study the effects of sleep deprivation and ways to combat it. But, it looks like the baby will be thrown out with the bath water," adds Jeralyn Merritt. "In our view, Poindexter tarnished the reputation of the agency, making Congress skeptical of just about everything bearing its name. Good riddance, Admiral."

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