DARPATech 2005 and Tech Leadership

lab2.JPGEvery year DARPA has its own annual gathering of the clans DARPATech. This one is the 24th, scheduled for the week of August 9 in Anaheim. The theme for 2005 (and for 2004) is Bridge the Gap. The gap is the difference between what U.S. force can do today and the technological possibilities for the future warfighter. DARPATech includes an overview of each program. The link below goes to the public slides from DARPATech 2004. Its a quick, easy way to see what DOD is up to in technology.The issue that DARPA had to face this year is whether it is not doing enough on the R side of R&D, particularly in basic research. There were hearings on this in Congress (prompted by a New York Times story) where DARPAs Director, Anthony Tether, defended DOD spending on basic research. DARPA gots $3 billion in 2004 and put a good hunk of it into basic research that could have security payoffs down the road.The problem is not with DARPA, but with the sense of unease felt by many people as to whether the U.S. is spending enough on research to ensure its long-term security. Some of this is prompted by China and its commitment to R&D, some of it is from the concern created by the long (and largely fruitless) public debate over the alleged decline of education in the U.S. and some comes from the anxiety over globalization and the state of manufacturing in the U.S.The U.S. spends more than other nations on R&D, but the pressures on this spending have been to focus on the life sciences and on development, rather than basic research. Basic research in phsyics, math, IT and other 'hard sciences are the most useful for military purposes, but the benefits may take years to arrive. Physicists started talking about nanotechnology in the 1950s; products didnt begin to show up forty years later. Funding for these areas has either fallen or been flat for years.The bottom line is that while the U.S. has done more than other countries to make scientific research and technological leadership one of the pillars of its military strength, we may not be making the investments needed to keep this pillar strong. The bumper sticker for this problem is: the country with the most physicists wins. Its hard to increase funding, however, in a year of big deficits and an active war.Congress has started to worry about technological strength and has asked the National Academy to look at how the U.S. can maintain its leadership its study starts in August and is supposed to be done before the end of the year.Link to DARPATech 2004

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