via Wall Street Journal
Regina Dugan, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, gave a peek inside the top-secret organization on Wednesday at the D9: All Things Digital Conference — but only a small peek.
DARPA, founded in the late 1950s, commissions advanced research for the Department of Defense and is credited by some for helping to father the Internet along the way. Dugan said the organization’s singular mission is “the prevention and creation of strategic surprise”–but declined to say what any of those surprises might have been.
Dugan also declined to pull back the curtain on other classified areas, including whether or not DARPA had been involved or had knowledge of recent cybersecurity episodes and the like.
But she gave some insights into other projects DARPA has been working on. Those include a hypersonics program, in which Dugan detailed how a vehicle could be boosted to near space-flight levels and maneuver while gliding to speeds that would be so rapid that an individual could be transported from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in half an hour. However, the heat generated by such travel could get to 3500 degrees Fahrenheit at ground level, she noted.
In addition, Dugan discussed “homomorphic encryption”– in other words the transmission of encrypted data, being able to operate on that data while it remained encrypted, and then having that data retransmitted back while it remained encrypted. In the past, doing such a thing was held out as an impossibility, said Dugan. But DARPA was recently able to perform homomorphic encryption at a slow speed, she said. If that advances, Dugan said the development “could change the security landscape for everyone.”