DARPA tries to cut red tape in new program announcement


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The Pentagon’s research arm announced Wednesday it is looking for private sector technology in areas such as Internet of Things security and data processing, spectrum access and hardware security from companies it doesn’t typically work with. 

In its new Microsystems Technology Office Commercial Performer Program Announcement, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it is targeting ideas from companies that had less than $50 million in Defense Department contracts during the last year, according to a news release. Using the Other Transactional authority, the agency is looking to cut bureaucratic red tape with a short, eight-page announcement that minimizes requirements.

DARPA notes in its announcement the authority allows for more flexible negotiation of issues such as intellectual property rights, and accounting and reporting requirements.

The new approach to these issues “aims to reduce barriers for innovative companies that don’t engage in the standard federal contracting process,” the release notes.

“Task-specific BAAs typically include dozens of pages of information and requirements and demand highly structured proposals running 20 pages or more,” the news release notes.

For companies who are comfortable with traditional government contracting or had more than $50 million in DOD contracts last year, DARPA recommends applying for its Broad Agency Announcement.

Companies under the OT authority are normally contracted as either research or prototyping projects, the announcement explains.

The new request in particular asks proposers to address questions such as how commercially developed IoT technology can be used in defense and “what advances are possible in local data processing and cybersecurity for distributed networks?”

The announcement also asks what technologies could “ensure optimal and secure use of the increasingly congested electromagnetic spectrum?” and “What capabilities can be leveraged to guarantee authentic, assured electronics that reliably operate as desired and as expected, both in hardware and in software?”

DARPA is widely recognized for playing a major role developing of some of the world’s most important technologies, like the internet and GPS. And as its Microsystems Technology Office notes in its announcement that the agency is looking to fund big ideas for this project, not “incremental” ones.

As DARPA program manager Trung Tran recently said when asked what he was looking for from industry in the virtual reality space: “If you want to follow the crowd with what’s available today, then I’m not really interested in talking to you. If you’re looking to try to really innovate… then DARPA’s really interested in talking to you.”

[Read more: At DARPA, virtual reality is more than a toy]

Proposals must be submitted by Oct. 4, 2017, and the technical explanation should be no more than 10 pages. There is no page limit for financial information.

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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Department of Defense (DOD), Departments