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DARPA 50th Anniversary Dinner
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Washington, D.C., Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thanks… Tony….

I’ve known the good doctor a long time… and count him a very good friend….  I have two roles tonight.  One is to be the opening act for the Vice President and the second is to be very efficient with my remarks.  I’ve learned over the past seven years that an audience AFTER dinner is full, content and appreciative.  An audience BEFORE dinner is hungry, anxious and … on occasion … unruly … so I will be short.

The fact is I’m a big fan of Tony and of DARPA and so I replied yes to this Anniversary invitation… which reminds me of the replies to a similar invitation… attributed to various scientists of renown….  and … guaranteed to make you groan:

* Einstein looked at the invitation and thought it would be relatively easy to attend.

* Pierre and Marie Curie were thrilled and absolutely radiated enthusiasm.
 
* Archimedes was buoyant at the prospect.

* Ampere, however, was worried that he wasn't up on current research.

* Ohm resisted the idea at first.

* Boyle said he was under too much pressure to attend.

* Edison thought it would be an illuminating experience.

* Watt reckoned it would be a good way to let off steam.

I’ll stop there… my notes say, “Applause here” … and like Volta I am electrified by your response!

I could only get away with these kinds of remarks at a DARPA function!

My good friend, Tony Tether, has guided the Agency during a challenging and very exciting time.  His watch, of course, has coincided with the War on Terror… and, thankfully, his vision and drive have yielded a host of technological advancements … and capabilities that have materially improved the quality of our efforts and support to the warfighter.  Simply put, the Agency provides technology to preserve freedom and liberty for our citizens … and for our friends and allies.  It is a high calling … and one the Agency has embraced.

Tony’s efforts reflect the animating spirit and finest traditions of DARPA… carrying on the legacy of his distinguished predecessors… many of whom are with us tonight.  Thanks to all of you for your valuable contributions to the Agency and to the security of the nation.

Both DARPA and I owe our professional existences to Sputnik.  When DARPA was created, the Congress also made educational loans available for this down-and-out engineering student who was then in desperate financial straits … so I’ve always had a close kinship with this organization.

The wall fell nearly twenty years ago… and the Cold War is part of history, but the world is still a very dangerous place and challenges to the nation’s security and interests abound. 

And while there’s no certainty as to what the future holds… (DARPA has not yet perfected a reliable crystal ball)… the outline of its form has been revealed. 

The post-Cold War, post-9-11 era is faster, more complex, and less predictable than the challenging periods of the past. 

As it was in the last century, technology is an integral part of the solution to emerging challenges… but things have fundamentally changed.  Technology is more widely available than ever before.  Adversaries have ready access to leading-edge science and technology… it’s out there, on the internet … with detailed application instructions in multiple languages.

But while some things have changed… some haven’t.  Just as it was in 1958, the answer is still to always stay ahead of everyone else in technology. 

Tony asked that I give you my sense of some of the specific challenges facing the Department and the nation… challenges that require innovative new approaches…. Here’s four that will not be too technically taxing for this time of the evening:

Hopefully we are ahead in network security … but who knows … so I am completely paranoid about this evolving warfare.  And it affects not just the military but every aspect of our commercial and economic sectors.

Regarding energy consumption … we will always field the finest fighting force in the world… but that force is extraordinarily energy dependent … and unfortunately, we may be learning the wrong lessons in the Middle East where fuel is readily available.  We need alternative solutions.  Further, as long as the Nation is a vast consumer of conventional fuels, we’re at peril … and using food for fuel is not the answer.

While communications is at the forefront of technological progress, units on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and … in whatever future theater we operate … still need better access to share secure information in real time and on the move, if necessary.  The demand for secure real time video will likely grow beyond anything imaginable today.

Biometrics is also making great strides in everyday life … at airports, crime labs and the like.  But it’s also one of the most promising ways we can conduct a successful counterinsurgency … rapidly identifying any person, any time, with great precision … from different angles … day and night … and at a distance. 

There are a host of needs … but I don’t want this to be a technical discussion.  I do, however, want to remind you that the nation is relying on DARPA to dramatically move the frontier of technology rapidly forward in a way that we can put it to work in the field.

I’ve one request before I conclude …  if the greatest short-term threat to the United States is a terrorist attack, then the greatest long-term threat is falling behind in science and technology.  The world is changing… competition is growing… we have no monopoly on genius.  We need to identify, educate and nurture the best minds… the best talent… if we are to remain competitive.

Lastly, in his second Inaugural, President Reagan said, “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.  People worldwide hunger for the right of self-determination.” 

For fifty years, DARPA has led the world in technological innovation… due, in large part, to the vision, leadership, and diligence of many of the people gathered here this evening.  We can only imagine what the next fifty years will bring … but we can be assured that DARPA will continue to ensure that America retains its technological edge … and in so doing follows in the footsteps of President Ronald Reagan by providing and preserving freedom for people worldwide.

God bless you and all who serve the cause of freedom… and especially those who stand the watch … and God bless America.