research and development organizations, national laboratories, foreign research establishments, and private research centers, and it even relies on private individuals for some projects.
Quality Research Management Staff—Historically, ARPA policy has been to provide term appointments for its staff members in order to ensure a rapid turnover of people and ideas. The staff is composed of discipline scientists and engineers from the research environments in which ARPA executes its programs as well as technically trained military officers. A typical term for an ARPA program manager has been 3 years, with 1-year extensions at the director's discretion. Recently, ethics in government legislation has made it increasingly difficult to recruit and retire ARPA program managers according to this policy. Motivation for ARPA program managers to serve a term managing programs there is threefold. First, there is little bureaucracy in this small organization, and dynamic technical entrepreneurs operate best in such a setting. Second, each program manager has an average of $10 million to $20 million per year during his or her term to pursue the programs agreed upon with the director. Most have not had such large discretionary research funds available to them to achieve their goals in the past. Third, there is a great deal of discretion given to the individual program manager as to how he or she will pursue his or her program. Oversight is minimal, but accountability for achieving results is substantial.
Program Selection Process—Military problems are selected in areas laid out by guidance from the director. Counsel is sought with military combatant commands to determine and study the most pressing military problems that may yield to technical advances. Concept studies are commissioned, and discipline scientific and engineering advice is sought from highly qualified scientists and engineers both through informal contacts and through workshops and public solicitations for ideas. From these raw materials, research programs and projects are devised by the program manager for execution. Approval is requested from the director with an abbreviated formal program description and an oral report. Proposals are solicited using a variety of formal and informal mechanisms. Except on very large programs, where the director takes a direct role in the procurement, the program manager is most often the selecting authority. Selections can be competitive or often sole source. Although this process is often much more informal than typical government procurements, it contains the essential ingredient of substantial consultation with the technical community before a program is formulated. This results in a high probability that the best ideas have been exposed to the program manager before he or she structures the programs.
Ingredients of Success—ARPA has been widely accepted as one of the nation's most successful research and development organizations. It has a reputation both here and abroad as an instigator of some of the country's most important achievements in advancing both military and commercial technologies. Two features stand out as the ones most responsible for that measure of success. One is the importance of its mission within the national security community and the willingness of Congress to fund its mission so generously down through the years. The other is the high quality of the technical staff, which has been engendered by ARPA personnel policies and the opportunity and excitement of the research environment there.