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Addresses three proposals for establishing a civilian version of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), whose model characterizes a strong-management approach in which a few elite technical managers operate relatively independently to seek out promising research and development (R&D) programs and support them with government funds. A government agency for commercial R&D, however, would have to deal with contentious issues never faced by DARPA. How would it handle the ownership of intellectual property rights, the use of tax revenues to selectively enhance private enterprise, and the question of whether the government has the ability or the right to pick winners in the nondefense arena? And whereas the defense market is relatively simple and predictable, the commercial technology market is complex and uncertain. While this management model worked well for DARPA in the early years, it was later changed irrevocably by congressional legislation. And in spite of early successes, the question remains as to whether the DARPA model would be appropriate for promoting commercial R&D.

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