Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity

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Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
Agency overview
Formed 2006
Jurisdiction United States Government
Headquarters College Park, Maryland[1]
Agency executive
Parent agency Director of National Intelligence

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is an organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) responsible for leading research to tackle the Intelligence Community’s (IC) most difficult challenges. IARPA funds academic and industry research across a broad range of technical areas, including mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, linguistics, political science, and cognitive psychology. Most IARPA research is unclassified and openly published. IARPA transfers successful research results and technologies to other government agencies. Notable IARPA investments include quantum computing, superconducting computing, and forecasting tournaments.


IARPA characterizes its mission as follows: To envision and lead high-risk, high-payoff research that delivers innovative technology for future overwhelming intelligence advantage.


In 1958, the first Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, was created in response to an unanticipated surprise—the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. The ARPA model was designed to anticipate and pre-empt technological surprise. As then-Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy said, “I want an agency that makes sure no important thing remains undone because it doesn’t fit somebody’s mission.” The ARPA model has been characterized by ambitious technical goals, competitively awarded research led by term-limited staff, and independent testing and evaluation.

Authorized by the ODNI in 2006, IARPA was modeled after DARPA but focused on national intelligence needs, rather than military needs. IARPA was given the mandate to conduct cross-community research, target new opportunities and innovations, and generate revolutionary capabilities for national intelligence. IARPA operations began on October 1, 2007. Lisa Porter served as IARPA's first Director from 2008 to 2012. Peter Highnam served as IARPA's second Director from 2012 to 2015. Jason Matheny became IARPA’s third Director in 2015.

IARPA’s quantum computing research was named Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year in 2010. In 2015, IARPA was named to lead foundational research and development in the National Strategic Computing Initiative. IARPA is also a part of other White House science and technology efforts, including the U.S. BRAIN Initiative, and the Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing. New York Times OP-ED columnist, David Brooks, called IARPA “one of the government’s most creative agencies.” Notable articles from the Harvard Business Review, USA Today, the Washington Post, and more have since followed.

IARPA Approach[edit]

IARPA invests in multi-year research programs, in which academic and industry teams compete to solve a well-defined set of technical problems, regularly scored on a shared set of metrics and milestones. Each program is led by an IARPA Program Manager (PM) who is a term-limited Government employee. IARPA programs are meant to enable researchers to pursue ideas that are potentially disruptive to the status quo.

IARPA Research Thrusts[edit]

IARPA is organized into four offices, each with its own office director and its own research focus:

  • Intelligence analysis, to maximize insight from information, in a timely fashion.
  • Anticipatory intelligence, to detect and forecast significant global events.
  • Operations, to counter new capabilities that could threaten the United States’ ability to operate freely and effectively in a networked world.
  • Intelligence collection, to dramatically improve the value of collected data from all sources.

Current Research Programs[edit]

IARPA’s current research includes:

Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE): Improving forecasting through the wisdom of crowds

Aladdin Video: Searching for events of interest in massive unconstrained video

Babel: Rapidly building speech recognition and keyword search in new languages

Bio-Intelligence Chips (BIC): Analyzing and assessing human omni-omic signatures related to biological weapons handling

Circuit Analysis Tools (CAT): Developing integrated circuit analysis tools to match Moore’s Law scaling

Cryogenic Computing Complexity (C3): Developing energy-efficient superconducting supercomputers

Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment (CAUSE): Developing automated methods for forecasting and detecting cyberattacks using unconventional multi-disciplined sensor technology

Crowdsourcing Evidence, Argumentation, Thinking and Evaluation (CREATE): Crowdsourcing to test hypotheses Finder: Locating where in the world an image or video was taken

Foresight and Understanding from Scientific Exposition (FUSE): Predicting technical emergence from scientific and patent literature using automated methods

High Frequency Geolocation (HFGeo): Geolocating high frequency ionospherically refracted transmissions

Janus: Enabling facial recognition in unconstrained video

Knowledge Discovery and Dissemination (KDD): Enabling analysts to produce actionable intelligence from multiple, disparate data sources

Logical Qubits (LogiQ): Building a logical qubit from a number of imperfect physical qubits

Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS): Advancing machine learning by reverse-engineering the algorithms of the brain

Mercury: Automatically analyzing SIGINT data to forecast foreign societal events

Multi-Qubit Coherent Operations (MQCO): Resolving the challenges of simultaneous, coherent control with multiple quantum bits

Open Source Indicators (OSI): Automatically forecasting and detecting significant societal events using publicly available data

Quantum Enhanced Optimization (QEO): Providing quantum effects required to enhance quantum annealing solutions to hard combinatorial optimization problems

Rapid Analysis of Various Emerging Nanoelectronics (RAVEN): Delivering prototype analysis tool for acquiring images from all layers

Scientific advances to Continuous Insider Threat Evaluation (SCITE): Testing and detection of methods to uncover insider threat

Sirius: Using game-based training to reduce analysts' cognitive biases

Signal Location in Complex Environments (SLiCE): Improving geolocation of radio frequency emitters under difficult conditions

Standoff ILluminator for Measuring Absorbance and Reflectance Infrared Light Signatures (SILMARILS): Standing up portable system for real-time standoff detection and identification of trace chemical residues on surfaces

Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-Solving (SHARP): Advancing the science on optimizing human adaptive reasoning and problem-solving

Tools for Recognizing Useful Signals of Trustworthiness (TRUST): Developing tools to assess signals of trustworthiness in humans

Trusted Integrated Chips (TIC): Demonstrating split-manufacturing of integrated circuits to ensure both world-class performance and security of design

Past Research Programs[edit]

ATHENA: Focused on computer network operations

Biometrics Exploitation Science and Technology (BEST): Significantly advancing biometrics technologies

Coherent Superconducting Qubits (CSQ): Demonstrating a reproducible, tenfold increase in coherence times in superconducting qubits

Forecasting Science and Technology (ForeST): Developing methods for generating accurate forecasts for significant S&T milestones, by combining the judgments of many experts

Great Horned Owl (GHO): Engineering the first generation of quiet unmanned aerial vehicles

Integrated Cognitive-Neuroscience Architectures for Understanding Sensemaking (ICArUS): Modeling how the human brain is able to make sense of sparse, ambiguous data

Knowledge Representation in Neural Systems (KRNS): Understanding how the human brain stores and organizes concepts

Metaphor: Revealing cross-cultural understanding through the use of metaphors

Quantum Computer Science (QCS): Exploring questions relating to the computational resources required to run quantum algorithms on realistic quantum computers

Reynard: Identified behavioral indicators in VWs and MMOGs that are related to the RW characteristics of the users

Security and Privacy Assurance Research (SPAR): Developed prototype implementations of efficient cryptographic protocols for querying a database that keep the query confidential; also, provided prototype implementations of efficient cryptographic protocols for subscribing to topics in a stream of documents; and efficient homomorphic encryption techniques to implement queries on encrypted data

Socio-cultural Content in Language (SCIL): Explored and developed novel designs, algorithms, methods, techniques and technologies to extend the discovery of the social goals of members of a group

Synthetic Holographic Observation (SHO): Created technology to enable full-parallax, full-color, high-resolution display of dynamic 3D data without head-gear, and possessing visually continuous perspectives without artifacts over wide viewing angles

Securely Taking On New Executable Software of Uncertain Provenance (STONESOUP): Developed and demonstrated comprehensive, automated techniques that allow end users to securely execute software without basing risk mitigations on characteristics of provenance that have a dubious relationship to security

See also[edit]


IARPA homepage (

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "IARPA dedicates a permanent home on the campus of U Maryland". Homeland Security News Wire. 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2015-12-15.