Situated behind a mall and next to an open pit of a construction site, the northern Virginia headquarters of DARPA, the military's most forward-looking appendage, aren't so much nondescript as they are deliberately non-assuming--a shrine to technological triumph glistening like the infinite offices of suburbia. Inside, I joined a dozen or so other reporters for a meeting with DARPA director Arati Prabhakar and Steve Walker, DARPA's deputy director. We were invited here to discuss a very elaborate game of guesswork: what threats will emerge in the future, and what investments now can protect against them?
DARPA is the Pentagon's future-looking technology projects wing, and it's also the world's foremost source of bad pun acronyms for military machines. Even if the President is turning down Death Stars, there's still plenty more of the future to mine for upcoming wars. At a media roundtable in northern Virginia yesterday, DARPA director Dr. Arati Prabhakar and deputy director Dr. Steve Walker gave a glimpse of something new and strange: on April 7th, they'll be christening a new ship that's 132 feet long and features an onboard crew of exactly zero people.