Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

DARPA Concerned About Its Image

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is stepping up its public relations efforts to communicate better to the public the nature of the work being done at the agency, said DARPAs director Anthony Tether.

DARPA has lots of talented scientists and inventors, Tether told reporters. The problem is that they only talk to other "techies" and not to the public, let alone the Congress, he said.

They tend to come up with names for projects that "are cute," said Tether, but to an outsider, "if you have a concern over the Patriot Act or stuff like that, [it] could scare you."

A case in point is a project initially entitled "Cities That See." It was designed to collect images from multiple cameras in various locations and build a database that would help track vehicles, for example.

"If we had this technology today, we would have it in Iraq," to help track car bombings, said Tether.

But these technologies are not well received in the United States, because they are perceived as infringing on personal freedoms.

"That wasn't obviously our intent," Tether said. "By naming the damn thing 'Cities That See,' we kind of helped people who wanted to see it in that way."

Based on that experience, DARPA proceeded to change the project's name to "Combat Zones That See," said Tether. "We are really trying to be much more careful about how we describe these projects, that we don't instantly put the wrong message on them," he said.

Other programs that became public relations nightmares for DARPA were the "Total Information Awareness," a now-defunct program to detect, classify, identify and track terrorists, and a futures-trading Web site designed to predict terrorist attacks, among other things.

Can the Pentagon Protect Intellectual Property Rights?

The military services will keep struggling with the "interoperability" of their weapon systems unless the Pentagon can figure out how to deal with the intellectual property rights of defense contractors, said Marine Lt. Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Staff director for force structure, resources and assessment.

The Pentagons "network-centric" model for future warfare is incompatible with the need for companies to protect their technologies from piracy, Cartwright told a conference of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.

The so-called "Napster" debate over the property rights of recording artists is a comparable situation to what the Defense Department faces today, he said. …

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