Darpa’s Ditziness Dents Budget

By Noah Shachtman
02:00 AM Sep. 16, 2003 PT

With all that money, McClusker said, “it’s harder to explain it all to (congressional) staff. They ask, ‘What is all this money going into Darpa, and what are they spending it on?'”

Under increased scrutiny for a series of controversial programs, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm has had its proposed budget for next year slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars in the Senate.

Some of the cuts to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency were expected: Lawmakers have been trying for the better part of a year to excise the notoriously far-reaching Terrorism Information Awareness database program. But others seem to have come out of regulatory left field. Widely hailed research into using the brain to control robotic limbs, and training the mind to function on little or no sleep, will come to an end if the Senate’s version of the Defense Department Appropriations bill becomes law.

“Darpa got too much of the wrong kind of publicity, the kind that invites mockery and ridicule, and now the agency is paying the price,” Steven Aftergood, with the Federation of American Scientists, wrote in an e-mail.