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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Arati Prabhakar Addresses Titans Breakfast

On Nov. 19, leaders from the Northern Virginia technology community gathered at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner for an NVTC Titans Breakfast featuring Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar. During the event, Prabhakar discussed breakthrough technologies for national security.

Prabhakar highlighted a few of DARPA’s previous leading-edge national defense projects, including infrared night vision and GPS, which "gave the troops the ability to own the night," and “changed outcomes” in U.S. military battles, according to Prabhakar. In addition, she outlined how DARPA’s national security R&D has carried over into the private sector and emphasized how DARPA works with universities and the private sector as well as the Department of Defense.

DARPA's Arati Prabhakar.
DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar addresses the audience at the Nov. 19 NVTC Titans Breakfast.

Prabhakar also outlined trends impacting the future of national security, including shifting and complex networks, globally available technologies, and finite investments in defense. She spoke on the future of research and development for national security, saying that the agency is already making tradeoffs due to the cost of what it builds. Addressing the growing costs of major research projects, Prabhakar emphasized the need to change the cost equation or “be doomed to building PowerPoints instead of building systems.”

Beyond defense-based research, Prabhakar highlighted DARPA’s pursuit of technologies with huge promise, including an experimental space plane program, space robotics, and controlling commercial space traffic via telescope. She also described DARPA’s biology-based research to rapidly diagnose and treat infectious diseases and new robotic and neuro technology allowing a person to control a prosthetic limb using his or her thoughts.

During a candid audience Q&A session, Prabhakar addressed questions about DARPA’s participation in President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, crowdsourcing as a way to reduce research costs, 3D printing and the future of manufacturing. She also discussed DARPA’s role in cybersecurity, including the recently announced Cyber Grand Challenge, the first-ever tournament for fully automatic network defense systems.