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Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts
adopting the system. In general, for its Advanced Technology Development programs, DARPA requires that an MOA or a transition strategy be negotiated with a Service at some predetermined point during its development in order to proceed to its later stages. DARPA also makes use of an extensive network of transition liaisons to ensure successful technology transition to services:
Special Assistant for Technology Transition—A permanent full-time person assigned to the Director’s Office and focused on promoting technology transition.
Operational Liaisons—Personnel from each military Service assigned to the Director’s Office to maintain DARPA’s connection to real-life problems while helping transition DAPRA technology to the Services. Operational liaisons are usually very senior both in rank and in experience, come with a great set of contacts, and help reinforce the day-to-day links between DARPA’s research programs and the needs and opportunities of the DOD special assistant to the director for technology transition.
Service Chiefs Program—Interns from the Services who rotate through DARPA on a 2- to 3-month basis for in-depth looks at DARPA programs. As these young officers progress through their careers, their exposure to DARPA at an early stage should make them more receptive to new technology and its potential value for U.S. national security.
United States Special Operations Command liaison—DARPA representative posted to USSOCOM to maximize the flow of new technology to Special Forces.
Questions posed to or by the Committee to Review the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts included how the federal government in general and NASA in particular should solicit and infuse advanced concepts into its future systems, and how other similar federal agencies such as DARPA accomplish this task. DARPA is the primary focus of this appendix, but the military departments in the DOD are also included.
First, it is important to understand that DARPA is not monolithic in terms of how it solicits and selects projects nor in how the results of its programs are infused or transitioned so that the those results benefit the Military Services and other organizations in DOD.
DARPA comprises five independent offices: two system offices, two technology offices, and one that does both. The Defense Sciences Office and the Microsystems Technology Office focus on new capabilities and component technologies that might have significant national security applications. The Tactical Technology Office (TTO) and the Strategic Technology Office are system offices focused on solutions to military problems and technology programs leading to specific military advanced concepts and products, such as strike aircraft. The Information Processing Techniques Office covers the continuum from research to prototyping of military systems.
The activity and budget categories of these offices include 6.1, Basic Research; 6.2, Exploratory Research; and 6.3, Advanced Development. Each office has a well-defined mission set, goals, strategy, and programmatic thrusts. An example—for the TTO—follows:
High-risk, high-payoff advanced technology development of military systems, emphasizing the “system” and “subsystem” approach to the development of aerospace systems and tactical multipliers.
Highly capable systems that enable “order-of-magnitude” improvement in military capabilities.
Avoidance technological surprise in areas of TTO emphasis.
Efficient management and transition existing programs.