Senate vs. Darpa


After years of bigger and bigger budgets, the Pentagon's way-out research arm now faces a $400 million cut to its proposed funds, if the Senate Appropriations Committee gets its way.Ffyrtp01.jpgDarpa asked for $3.3 billion dollars for next year -- about an 11 percent increase over what it got in '06. The green eyeshades in the House granted it all, and added another $30 mil or so. The Senate, on the other hand, had proposed about a three percent cut to the Defense Department's bleeding-edgers. According to Senate documents, funding for the sub-launched Cormorant UAV would be slashed by $14.6 million; the giant spy blimp ISIS would get a $16.6 million trim; "Orbital Express," the centerpiece of Darpa's next-gen satellite efforts, faces a $10 million whack; the agency's "cognitive computing" effort would get a brain-drain of nearly $71 million.And these aren't the only cuts Darpa has to contend with. The agency's budget just had $7 million pulled from it, to fund a Pentagon human resource system. Another $25.6 million was yanked from the agency's "advanced aerospace" kitty for this year.Darpa has been under attack from two groups lately. One says that they're thinking too far out of the box; "I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to delineate between Darpa-hard and Darpa-stupid," a leading Pentagon R&D official told me.The other wing contends that Darpa is being too practical. "Today Darpa imposes six-month go-no decisions on all their researchers, which stifle innovation and creativity - very un-Darpa-like," a Congressional source fumes. "I have had everyone complain to me about this - from universities to small hi-tech businesses to the big defense contractors."Apparently, Senators aren't too pleased, either.

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