U.S. Preps To Fight Terror with Technology
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has released a new report outlining a number of threats to America, and how military technology can be harnessed to counteract them. The report, "Breakthrough Technologies for National Security," looked at the agency's priorities for dealing with challenges, including the spread of more powerful technologies, the emergence of non-nation state actors, and the ongoing threat from peer adversaries.
The report summarizes the agency’s historical mission, current and evolving focus areas and recent transitions of DARPA-developed technologies to military services and other sectors. DARPA plans to focus its long-range strategic investments on four areas: rethinking military systems, mastering the information explosion, harnessing biology as technology, and expanding what it calls the "technological frontier."
The agency hopes to accomplish this by making America's military weapons systems more modular and easily upgraded while improving navigation technologies so the satellite-based Global Positioning System isn’t the only option. DARPA also said it's developing new approaches to gaining knowledge from massive datasets along with coming up with new technologies to protect sensitive data and systems, including automated cyber defense.
"DARPA’s mission and philosophy have held steady for decades, but the world around DARPA has changed dramatically," the report noted. "Those changes include some remarkable and even astonishing scientific and technological advances that, if wisely and purposefully harnessed, have the potential not only to ensure ongoing U.S. military superiority and security but also to catalyze societal and economic advances. At the same time, the world is experiencing some deeply disturbing technical, economic and geopolitical shifts that pose potential threats to U.S. preeminence and stability."
The report also identifies areas of increasing pace as both a central challenge and as an opportunity. That pace is manifested in the need for ever-faster radio-frequency and information-processing systems that work on the scale of nanoseconds, along with the need to speed up the development time of major military systems.
The report includes two sections highlighting examples of DARPA technologies that have transitioned to the military or other organizations in support of national interests. One focuses on technology transitions from recent programs to the armed services, while the other looks at the long-term impacts of various DARPA programs over a period of decades, "a reminder that the benefits of DARPA research often extend for many years after initial applications get operationalized, sometimes in unexpected ways," according to the agency.
Last year, DARPA opened a new Biological Technologies Office to make the most of recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, immunology, genetics, and other fields. DARPA said the new office has "enabled a new level of momentum for the agency's portfolio of innovative, bio-based programs." DARPA has programs underway that intend to accelerate progress in synthetic biology, outpacing the spread of infectious diseases, and mastering new neurotechnologies.