Prabhakar: DARPA wants to re-establish major technological advantage
The U.S. military must find ways to re-establish the kind of fundamental technological advantage it has lost as technologies have globalized, said Arati Prabhakar, the head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, on Oct. 22.
For decades after World War II, "we had the luxury of working in a time when so many of the advanced technologies that we needed for national security were invented and developed and really came to life in the United States," Prabhakar said at the Office of Naval Research's biennial Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference in Arlington, Va.
But that "differentiated edge," as she put it, no longer exists. Manufacturing and information technologies are now globally available, and in those areas, the United States sometimes doesn't even have the capability other countries have, let alone an advantage over them, she said.
Bioengineering looks to be one area where the United States can separate itself from the rest of the world. The ability to use biology to create new materials and components is still in the early research stages, but Prabhakar said it could result in a distinct advantage for U.S. national security technology for years or perhaps decades.
Within the next decade, she added, it's easy to imagine a radical new infrastructure based on bioengineering, with a wide range of applications.
In the meantime, Prabhakar said the United States has to be the most sophisticated user of technologies that are available worldwide.
As for whether other countries can build their own versions of DARPA--Russia announced plans for an equivalent earlier this year--Prabhakar seemed skeptical.
"It's actually not that easy to do," she said. "It's something that happens as you build an organization, and you establish a set of relationships, and you establish fundamentally a culture that allows a group of great program managers to step out and really take on those kind of dramatic challenges."