Regina Dugan, the director of the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, was a featured speaker at the D9 conference this morning in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. -- and she had some interesting things to say about the Pentagon's mysterious research arm.
Dugan, who leads the group responsible for developing high-risk, high-payoff, highly strategic projects for American combatants -- and is the first woman to do so -- said she likes to call DARPA "the nation's elite army of futuristic techno-geeks."
Per that mission, here are eight gems from her conversation with Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walt Mossberg, via Liz Gannes:
- "Our singular mission is the prevention and creation of strategic surprise." Also: "Our currency is national security."
- As a project manager, she worked on a project around explosive detection based on a dog's nose, using photoluminescent polymers.
- "We're working on technology now that would help us to produce vaccines in tobacco plants, and might have implications elsewhere."
- "We have a hypersonic program at DARPA, Mach 20. Could get you back to [Washington] D.C. in an hour [from California], but it might be a little warm."
- "Failure isn't the problem, it's the fear of failure."
- On cybersecurity: "We have a program called DARPA PROCEED to develop fully homomorphic encryption. So it's never decrypted. For three decades people used this as an example of something that's impossible. About a year and a half ago, Craig Gentry did this...but it's about 14 orders of magnitude too slow. If we could accomplish that, would be breakthrough for everyone."
- "DARPA is one of the highest densities of significant technically trained people in the government."
- "In ISR [Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance] we're swimming in sensors and drowning in data."