Thursday, February 5, 2009

DARPA, In-Q-Tel can expand efforts for U.S.

By Steve Hammons

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) should be used in expanded ways to help the U.S. economy and American society, an official of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) wrote to President Obama.

In an open letter to Obama published Jan. 12, 2009, in Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, Pedro L. Rustan wrote that "Expanding this entrepreneurial and innovative agency's role beyond traditional defense-related industries will help you rebuild the U.S. economy and create jobs.”

Rustan is director of the NRO’s Ground Enterprise Directorate. The NRO is an agency of the U.S. intelligence community.

“For more than 50 years, [DARPA] innovations have enhanced the Defense Dept., the intelligence community and commercial industry,” according to Rustan.

He told Obama that, “Expanding DARPA's role will cultivate our nation's entrepreneurial spirit and enable us to continue to lead the global economy.”

As Rustan pointed out in his letter, today’s Internet is the result of the earlier ARPAnet, developed by DARPA.

Although he focused on DARPA’s past, current and potential future activities, Rustan’s views might also apply to other organizations. One example is the not-for-profit independent venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel provides funding for innovative R&D that helps the U.S. intelligence community. Could In-Q-Tel’s activities also be expanded to help America?


Rustan pointed out that nanotechnology, biotechnology and information/communication technology are three general areas that should be focal points. He also noted that human development, education and training are key elements.

”Refocusing DARPA to address both military and commercial areas cannot be successful without paying equal attention to the development of human capital,” he wrote. “DARPA should expand efforts in cognitive sciences,” Rustan said.

Taking his idea further, we might consider that leading-edge developments in cognitive sciences, neurosciences, behavioral sciences, human communication, studies of human consciousness and related fields seem to offer tremendous potential.

After all, activities of our defense and intelligence communities, as well as our educational, economic and cultural endeavors are all tied to human behavior, perception, understanding and the other elements of the human species and human civilization.

The “hard power” technologies that groups like DARPA and In-Q-Tel have traditionally nurtured can be expanded to include “soft power” elements. Soft power not only can greatly enhance hard power resources, but can also serve as stand-alone tools to make progress on many fronts.


Emerging understanding and leading-edge research of many kinds remind us that our world is rapidly changing, sometimes in ways that cause us great concern.

Safety and security, freedom and justice, creativity and innovation, natural resources preservation and conservation, social cohesion and cooperation, effective agriculture, sustainable energy, economic prosperity, improved education, human development and many other fundamental goals are worthy targets for increased and advanced efforts.

At the heart of these efforts and goals are the many aspects of human consciousness.

The study of this intriguing field is no less important than our R&D of advanced technologies that organizations like DARPA and In-Q-Tel have traditionally cultivated.

Similar to the defense and intelligence communities’ study of “anomalous cognition” and “remote viewing” which include interesting and promising elements of human awareness, we can expand activities to take the next steps in these areas.

Several years ago, when a former Navy SEAL officer wrote a graduate-level paper for the Marine Corps War College about remote viewing research and operations, he referred to these efforts as being part of “transcendent warfare” – a way of optimizing leading-edge research results and innovative approaches to successfully accomplish a wide range of missions.

The SEAL and NRO official Rustan may be on to something. Maybe we should expand our thinking beyond what has sufficed in the past when considering what is valuable for our defense and intelligence communities.

After all, we are all part of a larger “intelligence community” – the community of the United States of America and of the human race. Let us hope that this community is intelligent enough to move forward in positive and constructive ways.

American society and culture will survive and thrive if we cultivate the intelligence of our people, improve understanding of emerging developments and show the world that we are a powerful force for good on Earth, and beyond.