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DARPA "Untethered"

There is no disrespect intended in this play on words. Others have written about it, including Noah Schactman at Wired.com's Danger Room. But it would be difficult to come to anything but a political conclusion when looking at the departure of Tony Tether as the Director of DARPA, and its apparent suddenness (an argument can be made that our Nation's science and technology should not be politicized).

A quick look at the DARPA Mission, and recognizing that Tether has successfully guided the Agency in the eight years since the attacks of September 11th, can shed some light on how important the role of DARPA and the man who has led it is to our Nation.

DARPA's mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research bridging the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use. Over the years, DARPA has responded to issues of national importance with new ideas and technology that have changed the way wars are fought and even changed the way we live. Since the very beginning, DARPA has been the place for people with ideas too crazy, too far out and too risky for most research organizations. DARPA is an organization willing to take a risk on an idea long before it is proven.

With the new President, it was expected that a change at the top of the Defense Department's research organization would certainly occur, and that Dr. Tether would be replaced. However, even he was seemingly surprised when asked to vacate his office by February 20th prior to the new Administration identifying his replacement as shown by a now well-circulated email.

The Time to Go has Been Settled

As you know, I had said that I was asked to stay on at DARPA until replaced.

It turns out that that was not the case.

I was informed last week that the Administration had decided that I was to leave now with February 20th as a two week notice.

So it's over.

But it has been a good ride and we have many, perhaps thousands, of technology developments most of which are yet to come, but also many which are out being used saving our Soldiers lives yet making them far more effective than the adversaries they face.

I want you to know that I am proud of all of you, current and past, and will never forget what you have done.

Once I know what I am doing, I will let you know.

God bless all of you, and most of all, God Bless America.


In a post earlier this week, S&T and the Stimulus Package, I commented that "the exploration of new things and the unknown is essential to the growth of what we know. Without it, we might as well be monkeys. Basic science is not intended to make money. It is what follows the basic research that leads to solutions." DARPA takes the risk on visionary technologies and solutions when no one else will do so. In that same post, Dr. Ruth David, CEO of ANSER and former Deputy Director of Science and Technology at the CIA, was paraphrased when I wrote that "one of our advantages in fighting this War on Terrorism is our capacity to innovate and invent."

Whoever becomes Dr. Tether's successor will certainly have big shoes to fill.

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