Alas, poor DARPA!

The next Internet will have to be invented somewhere else.

The Bush Administration has put a guy who used to work for defense contactors in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Surprise! DARPA is now moving money away from the universities and into the corporate sector. At the same time, it’s moving away from the “blue sky” work that made it famous and toward more routine, short-term-focused, deliverables-based projects.

So DARPA is basically going the way of the Office of Naval Research, as RAND goes the way of Bell Labs. The money for risky, out-of-the-box project work dries up, and the places where it used to happen reinvent themselves doing routinized contract research. It’s a bad business, unless your time horizon is limited by the electoral cycle.

And while I’m ranting, why was there never a DARPA for domestic concerns? Where’s the Education Department’s advanced research projects group? Or the Labor Department’s? NSF is a basic research agency, and its RANN (Research Applied to National Needs) activity never produced much. But there’s no particular reason, other than the fact that the Pentagon usually has more money than it knows what to do with, for all of the blue-sky projects to be funded by DoD.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com