The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major effect on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.

Its original name was simply Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), but it was renamed to "DARPA" (for Defense) in March 1972, then renamed "ARPA" again in February 1993, and then renamed "DARPA" again in March 1996.

DARPA was established during 1958 (as ARPA) in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik during 1957, with the mission of keeping U.S. military technology more sophisticated than that of the nation's potential enemies. From DARPA's own introduction,

DARPA’s original mission, established in 1958, was to prevent technological surprise like the launch of Sputnik, which signaled that the Soviets had beaten the U.S. into space. The mission statement has evolved over time. Today, DARPA’s mission is still to prevent technological surprise to the US, but also to create technological surprise for our enemies.

DARPA is independent from other more conventional military R&D and reports directly to senior Department of Defense management. DARPA has around 240 personnel (about 140 technical) directly managing a $3.2 billion budget. These figures are "on average" since DARPA focuses on short-term (two to four-year) projects run by small, purpose-built teams.

Read more about DARPA:  Notable Fiction

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... The following are active projects within DARPA ACTUV - A project to build an unmanned Anti-submarine warfare vessel ... Boeing X-37 Integrated Sensor is Structure DARPA X-41 Common Aero Vehicle DARPA XG - technology for Dynamic Spectrum Access for assured military communications FALCON Northrop ...
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... DARPA, which has continued to support the program, carried out the first outdoor exercise on the latest variation of the LS3, in February 2012, with it successfully demonstrating its full capabilities ... plan has been unveiled, which will see DARPA complete the overall development of the system and refine its key capabilities, due to start in summer 2012 ... DARPA intends to supply a Marine company with an LS3 by 2014 Robotics portal Military portal ...
DARPA - Notable Fiction
... ARPA/DARPA is well known as a high-tech government agency, and as such has many appearances in popular fiction ... realistic references to ARPA in fiction are in Tom Swift and the Visitor from Planet X (DARPA consults on a technical threat), in episodes of television program The West Wing (the ARPA-DARPA ... Other references often attribute to DARPA an operational or political role, in addition to its high-tech responsibilities ...