back to article Spy chief to Obama: Let DARPA fix economy

Newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama has been urged by a top US spysat chief to revitalise America's economy through the use of DARPA*, the legendary Pentagon barmy-boffinry bureau which has given the world the internet and the stealth bomber. More recently the agency has also sponsored initiatives such as mindreading peril- …


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  1. Martin Lyne

    He's taking a big risk..

    It's very unlikely Prez Obama will have time to read such magazines, especially in his first week in office.

    He should have just carved it into the whitehouse lawn with one of the super-secret laser satellite weapons platforms. Guaranteed to get mentioned in a briefing then.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Knowing people who have seen some of the crazy things they work on

    I think it would be great to see such tech be used for socioeconomic purposes, the only reason they aren't is becuase of the military applications requiring secrecy so no one else uses it. But this creates a gap that is growing ever greater between the black world and the rest of us. Compared to them, we live in the 19th century still, we can't even imagine the kinds of things they work on that we don't even know about.

    Dammit, I want a hover car, and cheap/free energy!

  3. Anonymous Coward

    High risk

    As we all know, the world economy is currently in deep s**t because of the highly risk averse attitude of key players combined with the risk-free investment strategies employed in deploying equity / borrowed funds.

    Mine's the risk-free one: like the government bailouts. No risk and it's free.

  4. Mark S
    Black Helicopters

    Here's another crazy idea...

    Alternatively they could try a lean, well-equipped cost-effective military geared to quickly fighting, winning and then returning from whatever rare engagements are actually needed for US security.

    You know, precisely the opposite of what they've been doing for the last 20+ years...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America is in a downward spiral

    I don't think Mr. Obama could have been more divisive if he tried. He is going to live to regret the hate he spewed in his inauguration speech. We'll see how he deals with an economic depression lasting a decade, with the next terrorist attacks on America, with the loss of people's jobs, retirement, homes and lives. We'll see how long Americans tolerate inaction, poverty, despair, increased taxes and unemployment when they are standing in bread and soup lines.

    The world is going to see that Mr. O is just another scum sucking pig on Capitol Hill out to exploit all Americans. He clearly demonstrated his DISGRACEFUL bigotry by turning the Presidential inauguration into a $150 Million "race based" Coronation that alienated many and will forever haunt this con artist. That is Mr. Obama's definition of RESPONSIBILITY !

    The office of the Presidency of the U.S. is not and shall not be about one race, religion or personal ideology. The President and Congressional members are elected to represent ALL Americans regardless of race, color or religion. Obama's appalling bigotry in the Circus Act Coronation has been documented for history to show what a scum BUM politician he really is.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I like Crazy Ideas

    I hate to say this, but current funding goes to safe and traditional lines of research. Good for publishing papers, bad for new ideas.

    I for one would like DARPA to fun me for $500 000 US to research: brain chip robot green car which can burn #2 while smell as sweet as roses.


  7. The March Hare
    Thumb Up

    FOTW Nomination

    I'd like to nominate AC @ 14:44 for FOTW - A worthy contender who shows promise, once they get over the cautious use of capital letters....

  8. Francis Vaughan
    Thumb Up

    He's right

    The thing is that at the heart of it, he is right. The DARPA approach is vastly more likely to bring in real results than the current mechanims that the US, and pretty much the rest of the western world use to rank, rate, and fund research. Ages ago process driven, risk adverse funding became the norm. Funding agencies want to know that they will always get a result on their funding, so researchers long ago realised that track record counted for more than any other metric. A track record of mediocrity, always producing the smallest useful increment in knowledge that it was possible to get away with. Always filling in the forms on time. Publishing a few papers reviewed by mates in the same area - whose papers they would later review in return. The funding agencies were happy, because they always seemed to fund winners - so, based upon the flawed metrics they use, they can report to their political masters that they have spent the money well. The funded researchers are happy, since, well, they get funded. The politicians are happy, because it all seems to be going well. But nothing useful ever happens. Look at computing. Grids, clouds, Oh Please! this isn't progress. It is just ways of working out how to re-label the same old same old in a way that will liberate money in a risk free manner. Pathetic, and ultimately destructive.

    The answer is higher risk, less process, accepting that you must fund research that may actually utterly fail to produce a useful result, and not punish the researchers by consigning them to an unfunded career henceforth. But there is scant chance this will happen with the current cozy system that has evolved over the years.

    Giving a slab of money to an agency that has a vision beyond the year's performance metrics, and actually wants to see significant leaps of technology, and isn't afraid of risk is the right answer. The worst people to give the money to are the usual suspects - NSF in the US, ARC in Oz, HEFCE in the UK, etc.

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Ready and waiting

    I'm not even American, but I'm more than willing to offer my half-baked, left-field, crazy-ass ideas to DARPA in exchange for a warm patriotic glow, a moderately ludicrous salary, a Corvette and a secret volcano lair.

    For instance, perfecting my economy-saving stealth manatee will only cost a few billion...

    ...and an Aston Martin...

    ...and Iceland ('cos how many other countries tell you what they're like on the label?)

  10. Henry Wertz Gold badge

    New agency instead?

    Perhaps they should have an agency other than DARPA for this? I know DARPA already exists, but I think some people will think twice about working for a defense (a.k.a. "military") agency... especially those foreigners Obama talked about. (I realize DARPA does do non-military projects.. but I'm talking perception here.)

    It may be good to have a agency that basically is DARPA without the tight defense ties in other words.

  11. this

    @the march hare


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    hot air

    and if your dead astern, the heat signature would be good enough to lock onto.

  13. Andy Enderby
    Thumb Down

    AC 14:44......

    wow.....what was he watching ? I saw the inauguration on tv. I can only assume that the beeb edited out all of the "hate filled" "bigotry". Somebody not get their coffee and danish this morning or what ? Or did an african american take your parking space ?


    Back on topic, if DARPA are capable of contributing to the world at large in ways that don't involve killing people or blowing stuff up, then Obama would be mug not to make use of them. On the other hand research establishments in the defense field tend to have a drive to develope pretty specialised technologies, how would Johnny Taxpayer feel if the agency appropriated funding into just another war pr0n project ?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @the march hare

    I don't agree with you.

    FOTW mails are gems - pure entertainment. The post by AC @14:44 wasn't. It was political, out of context and in poor taste.

    For the record, I'm not American and don't give a shit as to who's president of the US of A.

    Moderators: how did you let that one get past?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Darpa, no thanks

    "avoiding bureaucratic infrastructure and nurturing program managers with fresh ideas"

    Isn't that the sort of attitude the bankers have managed to get away with for rather too long for everyone's good? I think most people had in mind a little more bureaucratic infrastructure for bankers in future.

  16. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Any Advance on Seven Sevens for Steganographic Stealth ..... and BI-Polar Security Screening

    "For instance, perfecting my economy-saving stealth manatee will only cost a few billion..." .... By Mike Richards Posted Wednesday 21st January 2009 15:38 GMT


    I know a body who stealth only cost a sterling 7.777777 million, which would make it a real bargain, and with Quantum Internet Technologies, that would Create AIReal Virtualisation Bargain too ...... and an Innovative Novel Asset. ..... CyberIntelAIgent Tool.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Darpa = Hedge Fund on Steroids with SEC looking in other direction

    I was really touched by the original quote


    By avoiding bureaucratic infrastructure and nurturing program managers with fresh ideas, Darpa is one of the few agencies in the US government that continues to be as relevant today as it was at its inception. Expanding this entrepreneurial and innovative agency's role beyond traditional defense-related industries will help you rebuild the US economy ...


    a receipe for a financial disaster is:

    - take away any form of financial control (accountability)

    - give money to people who will never find a job in private sector

    Serioulsly, what's the project with the brain controlled insects? I believe it was the register (or maybe [?]) which pointed me to a presentation (unfortunately lost) about those insects.


    - present that as business plan to raise funds, the attendance will call the police

    - present that as some post 9/11 to improve security of the USA, the DARPA will fund

  18. James

    @AC America is in a downward spiral

    Seriously? What inauguration where you watching?

    Did you mean Osama? It's an easy mistake to make as he pointed out. Or Hussain? That's his middle name you see.

  19. Rob Dobs

    @ KKK klan member... i mean AC

    OK, so $150mil was very elliteist, and something of a waste of money, it did make the inaguration too much of a coronation. But consider this cost in comparison to actually giving all freed slaved the 40 Acres of land and a mule they were promised in passed binding legistation.... quite a bargin if you ask me. Was the coronation, I mean inaguration more catered towards black america, YES it was. Does this mean Obama is not still half white, and doesnt still represents all of us, NO it doesnt. Consider the decades of biggotry (still existant by your own example) the dogs, the lynchings the firehoses, the lack of freedom, the chains, the people stacked like cordwood on ships, the 30-40 million Africans that were killed by starvation/elements en-route to the colonies etc.

    Black America are due a little glimmer of happiness, even if there is no "Obama check" waiting for black people in their mailboxes when they get home. The days focus was really meant to be that America is finally living up to the intended and pretended ideals that our great forefathers created, that ALL men (ahem, women too you sexist bastards) are created equal. Your hate belies your fear, and ignorance. If you wanted to put him down you should have just focused on the waste of money, which was the real sin here.

    Here is some food for thought, Obama is an educated (Harvard no less) in constitutional law, for all the talk of his lack of experience, he is probably the first president in a long time that actually understands his role and duties from day 1. Further he has shown the most important aspect of being president, common sense. No ammount of executive expereince will prepare you for the decisions you have to make as president for the entire nation. Best example of this was during the campaign when asked about Iraq what he would do he said that he was yet uninformed and didn't know yet, but he would on Day 1, call in the joints cheifs of staff (the heads of the US military) and tell them where he whanted the nation to go, and ASK them what they thought about it. Imagine how much better this country ( and your own personal racist life) will be with a leader who seeks out and listens to good advice, from those who are already informed and know better than he? The last eight years have been the exact opposite, yes the last leader looked like you, and spouted out the same moral values that you belive in, but he did not follow them (thou shall not kill anyone, not very christian if you ask me) and worse he made brash ignorant decisions based on what he wanted things to be, rather than what they actually are. We are involved in war on multiple fronts (almost always leads to defeat, just read your history) and we are massivley in debt, and rich robber barons have plundered the nations coffers. We are WAY WORSE OFF for Bush's and his cronies actions, yet your blind racist ignorance leads to come to a very undefensible conclusion. Wake up and smell the black coffee David Duke, this guy is actually going to hlep you out personally, you just don't know it yet.

  20. J


    Have they watched "War, Inc.", by any chance?

  21. JohnG

    Bigger budget please

    As if we don't spend enough money that others worked hard to earn, we would like a bigger wad of cash, even though there are fewer people with jobs to pay for it.

    Personally, I'm a bit sceptical of people coming up with whacky plans when it isn't their own jobs/salary/homes on the line.

  22. easyk


    Just change the name to ARPA and double the budget. Half still does the Military BS (and keeps me employed) and the other can work much the same way DARPA does now. Get inventors, proffessors, etc. to sign up for 3 year or less shifts and tell them to make a difference.

    BTW one good way to get a DARPA proposal NOT funded is to use the words "Low Risk".

  23. Charles Osborne

    SKYNET and Robots

    Yeah, that'll fix everything. Warm up the economy and infrastructure in a flash.

    Mine is the one looking for spare change in Sarah Connor's overcoat.

  24. Shane McCarrick

    The Internet?

    Nice to see DARPA wholly taking responsibility for the internet again.

    Perhaps someone had better make sure Sir Tim Berners-Lee doesn't find out......

  25. Daniel Garcia

    RE:America is in a downward spiral,bla blah blah

    hate? your speech contains more than anything i readed in last weeks.

    take your medicine,it is good for the voices(in your head)!

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Cleaning Woman!

    @AC who posted "America is in a downward spiral"

    I take it your not a fan of President Obama then? Shame your post had bugger all to do with the article. Still, the internet is a great place to vent your spleen. Is "Obama" your version of "Cleaning Woman"?

    Back on topic, I think Pedro may have a point. There are cases when one arm of the scientific community has benefited from research in an other. Astronomy and partial physics for example.

    And a single body is more likely to share data across different subjects/projects than totally different organisations. Lets face it scientists are a conservative bunch, they won't submit a paper for peer review unless they are absolutely convinced they are on to something and think they can contribute to their field of science. Who's to say that an outright failure in one field of science would not lead to a breakthrough in another?

  27. Spoonguard


    Could we make a robot that denies the holocaust

  28. Geoff Smith


    No, I don't think so. AC 14:44 is a troll. Don't feed them.

    Looks like the same AC has been posting similar vitriolic nonsense in several of the article comments sections today.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    They have a point?

    It might be very, very difficult to see some positive stuff in the middle of the financial muddle (is credit crunch a term someone devised to throw people off?)

    But these times really do present western society with a great chance to modernize working methods?

  30. Steve McPolin Bronze badge

    @AC America is in a downward spiral

    Hey George, posting as AC doesn't fool anybody. Sorry you got your ass handed to you by the new boss. The "Under New Management" bit probably stings a bit, but you deserve far worse. Here's hoping you get it.

  31. J
    Black Helicopters

    @AC 16:58

    "For the record, I'm not American and don't give a shit as to who's president of the US of A."

    But he will rule over you anyway. I'm not American either (although I do currently live in the USA), but I know that the POTUS will fuck with any country he desires. Don't you learn history in your country?

  32. Michael

    Time to spend money on space and flying deloreans...

    Well I want my flying delorean and skyways to replace the motorways but that aint gonna happen soon enough.....

    Forget the world economy... a space economy is the way to go........

    Bugger it - lets just have a couple of years sorting out our infrastructure and get our butts on mars and not the moon again... Why? Not because it is expensive, but because it is hard!

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