U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Federal Energy Management Program
President Bush Approves Bill to Create "ARPA-E"
August 15, 2007
President Bush signed the "America COMPETES Act" on August 9th, thereby
authorizing the formation of a new DOE program for advanced energy
research. The act, H.R. 2272, features an extra-long name—the
"America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in
Technology, Education, and Science Act"—and includes a provision to
create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Modeled
after the Defense Research Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),
ARPA-E will develop and deploy advanced energy technologies by
identifying and promoting revolutionary advances in fundamental
sciences, translating those discoveries into technological
innovations, and accelerating transformational technological advances
in areas that industry by itself is not likely to undertake. Many of
the measures in the new act, including ARPA-E, were recommended by the
National Academies in a report published in 2005. See Section 5012 of
the new act,
the White House announcement of its signing, and the
from the National Academies.
One of the many recent DARPA projects was the Grand Challenge, which featured robotically controlled vehicles navigating across the desert on rough roads while avoiding obstacles. DARPA will host a similar competition in an urban setting in November.
Credit: DARPA Grand Challenge
The America COMPETES Act authorizes $300 million for ARPA-E in fiscal
year 2008, although there is no guarantee that Congress will actually
approve that level of funding. The act places most of its emphasis on
improving science and math education at all levels, from elementary
school to higher education, while including a number of measures to
advance basic research. According to a White House fact sheet, the act
authorizes a doubling in funding for research programs in the physical
sciences. However, the White House warns that the bill "creates 30 new
programs that are mostly duplicative or counterproductive," including
ARPA-E, which is "more appropriately left to the private sector." The
act also "provides excessive authorization for existing programs,"
according to the White House. The fact sheet concludes that the
President's proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 will not include
funds for these measures. See the
White House fact sheet.
DARPA, the model for ARPA-E, was established in 1958 in response to
the Soviet launching of the Sputnik satellite. Since that time,
DARPA's mission has been to assure that the United States maintains a
lead in applying state-of-the-art technologies for military
capabilities and to prevent technological surprise from her
adversaries. DARPA has established a reputation as an agile, forward-looking research and development group unconstrained by conventional
thinking and able to investigate ideas and approaches that the
traditional research community finds too outlandish or risky. The
organization also enjoys substantial autonomy and freedom from
bureaucratic impediments. See the DARPA Web site.