Furloughs particularly harmful to DARPA talent, Prabhakar says

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Sequestration-related furloughs will be especially corrosive at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency because of the high-achieving talent the agency attracts, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar told a House panel April 16.

"These are people who have come to DARPA for a short time to do something big," Prabhakar said, "and when they see these program delays, when they're told under furlough that you can't work one day a week...those are enormous negatives for these driven individuals." She testified before the House Armed Services subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats and capabilities.

DARPA has projected up to 14 days of furloughs for civilian employees and has delayed or eliminated research programs.

One such program is Plan X, a cyber warfare research effort, the start of which DARPA has delayed by 5 months, Prabhakar said. She said DARPA picked it for a delay because it has not fully ramped up yet. That way, the agency can preserve resources for programs that are fully underway.

Whatever cyber capabilities emerge from Plan X will have to be delivered later than they might have been if not for sequestration, she said.

Portions of another program, Micro-Technology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing, have also been postponed because of sequestration. That program develops small, self-contained navigation and guidance technology to incorporate into weapons systems. Many military weapons have long depended on Global Position System technology, which may be thwarted by jammers or otherwise compromised.

Alan Shaffer, the Defense Department's acting assistant secretary for research and engineering, said that because of sequestration, university grants in fiscal 2013 will be reduced by $200 million.

Additionally, there may be no new Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation scholarships this year, and the department won't be able to hire many new scientists, he said.

But Shaffer also said that science and technology programs can count on support from top department officials who are deciding how to reconfigure the overall DoD budget. "I don't think that there's a wholesale rush to trade in science and technology for operations and maintenance," he said.

For more:
- visit the hearing webpage (webcast and prepared testimonies available)

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