The Pentagon’s Brain

The Secretive DARPA Agency — a Podcast

DARPA's Warrior Web seeks to provide super-human enhancements Photo credit: U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, was created by Eisenhower in the late 1950s from the same military industrial complex that produced thermonuclear weapons. Its purpose was to devise science fiction-inspired high-tech weaponry for the American military. DARPA’s key mission, ironically, was to design systems to protect Americans from enemies having the very weapons it had created.

DARPA was also Frankenstein-like. President Eisenhower, his generals, and his defense contractors created it, and then, on his way out of office, he warned us of its dangers.

In this week’s podcast, WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman talks with Annie Jacobsen, the best-selling author of Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, about her new history of the Defense Department’s secret, powerful, and sometimes controversial military science R&D agency. Jacobsen’s new book, released on September 22, is titled The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency.

In this first-ever full-scale history of DARPA, Jacobsen relies on inside sources, interviews, private documents, and declassified memos to paint a picture of DARPA as the “Pentagon’s Brain,” which she traces from its Cold War inception in 1958 to the present.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from The Pentagon (Department of Defense / Wikimedia  [Public Domain]) Computer chips circuits boards (Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia [Public Domain])

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3 responses to “The Pentagon’s Brain”

  1. Title

    […]The info mentioned within the write-up are a number of the best accessible […]

  2. danny j says:

    I’m ambivalent on President Eisenhower’s “Military/Industrial Complex” speech. He gave that “warning” as he left behind 8 years as Commander in Chief, during which time he oversaw the most dramatic “peacetime” growth of that sector in history.

    The US had fewer than 1,000 nuclear weapons when he was elected, and over 22,0000 when he left. He was personally involved in planning the CIA overthrow of the democratic governments of Iran and Guatemala. He hid from the public his U-2 program’s discovery that there was no “missile gap,” and in fact the Soviet Union was far behind the US in military technology, and was never an existential threat.

    If we go a bit further back in history, we see that Eisenhower, McArthur and Patton were the military leaders in the brutal crushing of the “Bonus Army” on the Washington Mall in 1932.

    For those unaware, that was an “Occupy” style protest in which WW I veterans and their families camped out on the Mall, requesting the bonuses they’d been promised for their service during WW I. President Hoover ordered the Army to drive them out, and complete with tanks and machine guns, they did just that, resulting in the deaths of at least two children.

    I don’t know why Eisenhower gave that final speech, nor why he implied that this same MIC was involved in the death of the President who followed him, but I can’t just take it as the kindly grandfather passing on his wisdom.

  3. ghartwell says:

    They kept President Eisenhower out of Area 51 and the underground areas until he threatened to bring in the Fifth Army. Clearly this was out of President Eisenhower’s knowledge and control.