These high pay-off, high-visibility projects are only part of what DARPA funds. Much DARPA technology finds its way into other systems at the component level and into the development of new operational concepts. People have forgotten that the agency was involved in the beginning of many successful projects.
Bobby Joe said he imagined that Northrop Grumman was just like any other company in the private industry. It funds its own projects and cooperates on projects that might be co-funded by agencies such as DARPA. Sometimes a government-funded technology finds its way into a system that a private company produces. It could be a small piece of electronic technology. It could be a piece of the stealth system. Stealth started with DARPA but then found its way onto different platforms. Sometimes a technology might not find its way immediately onto a specific system, but as another system is developed, an engineer might incorporate the technology in some fashion into a service-funded program.
Branscome mentioned that DARPA was not responsible for sustaining any laboratories, which gave it a lot of additional freedom. He wanted to know how important the other DOD laboratories were to DARPA's overall success. Welby replied that the DOD laboratories were clearly critical to DARPA. He mentioned that DARPA was only one link in the technology development chain. Clearly, it makes no sense for everyone to be involved in the highest-risk work. Welby said he thought DARPA acted as an engine of acceleration. However, DARPA relies critically on new structures, wind tunnels and test ranges, DOD laboratories, academic laboratories, industrial laboratories, and on government facilities and laboratories for support. On any given day, DARPA has field and flight tests going on around the country. Those facilities and aircraft are operated, supported, and maintained by other organizations. However, DARPA does fund maintenance of these facilities, ultimately helping to upgrade them. Welby did say that ultimately those facilities were owned by the end users, which could then take the facilities and use them for other programs.
Branscome’s final questions concerned the OTA. He asked Welby how often DARPA used that authority and how important it was to the success of the agency’s programs. Welby replied that the majority of DARPA’s large prototype system work was done using the OTA mechanism. For smaller efforts, where the work can be more clearly defined and the focus is not on a prototype, DARPA may use traditional contracting methods. There is a need for the kind of flexibility provided by the OTA for pursuing novel approaches, especially for large prototype systems.
Branscome then asked Welby to expand on the types of authority and flexibilities that OTA provides. Welby replied that the OTA allowed DARPA to negotiate almost every aspect of the contractor relationship, from intellectual property rights to a set of generally binding FAR requirements. It requires participation from the contractual partner in a variety of ways, like bringing in participants or subcontractors that do not normally support the defense sector but that are able to share costs with the government. DARPA requires collaborators to submit a standard FAR proposal. After a judgment is made using the FAR, the contracting officers at DARPA evaluate the proposal using the OTA to see what other benefits an OTA agreement might offer to the government. It is only then that DARPA can determine which contracting vehicle to use.
Dava Newman inquired about the role of technology roadmaps in the DARPA strategy. She mentioned that the recent Aldridge commission report explicitly