Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) This Way Comes

Spy agencies' tech effort ready for launch
Oct. 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The plan for a technology incubator for the country’s intelligence agencies is just “waiting for life to be breathed into it,” says the deputy U.S. spy chief.

Donald Kerr, the newly confirmed deputy director of national intelligence, said that the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency was “a work in progress.”

“IARPA is still a construct waiting for life to be breathed into it,” he told a conference in Texas last week, according to a transcript. Intelligence officials in Washington told United Press International that a classified implementation plan for the agency had been finalized recently.

The agency is envisioned as part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and its chief will report to Steve Nixon, the DNI’s director of science and technology.

Nixon spokesman William “Trey” Brown declined to comment to UPI on the implementation plan but said the office was “actively seeking some to lead IARPA.”

The idea for the agency, modeled to some degree after the Pentagon’s DARPA, ran into some headwind on Capitol Hill earlier this year after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence passed an authorization bill blocking its implementation.

"The committee observes that the plan for IARPA appears to be execution-oriented. In this, it seems inconsistent with the coordination and de-confliction role originally intended for the ODNI," said the committee in its report accompanying the legislation, which has yet to be reconciled with its Senate counterpart.

The House version of the bill prohibited the director of national intelligence from assuming control of existing intelligence agency research centers, and it fenced off a portion of the funding for IARPA until the DNI produces a plan to manage research across the intelligence agencies and how IARPA will fit into that effort.

Kerr said DARPA had been almost like a different agency under each of its directors and that to some extent, the character of IARPA would depend on the person picked to lead it.

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