Why Not a Civil DARPA?
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA
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In his campaign position papers, President-elect Clinton suggested that his administration would consider establishing a civilian version of DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, citing the agencys successful role in fostering a series of major technological breakthroughs. The newly chartered agency would create new jobs for scientists, technicians and engineers and develop and produce manufacturing expertise for state-of-the-art technologies and innovative new products. Two additional proposals for similar federal agencies are also under consideration in Washington. One of these, recommended by the Carnegie Task Force, would transform DARPA into a National ARPA NARPA for the development of dual-use technology. The other, which emerged from an expert panel sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, calls for a quasi-governmental Civilian Technology Corporation CTC. The CTC would receive a one-time start-up grant from Congress and would be chartered to develop precommercial technology to introduce into the national technology base. Despite their differences, all three proposals are based on the DARPA model-a strong-management approach in which a few elite technical managers operate relatively independently to seek out promising RD programs and support them with government funds. While this management model worked well for DARPA in the early years, it was later changed irrevocably by congressional legislation. And even in its original form, it may never have been appropriate for promoting commercial RD.
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