Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Art Diamond


Government often has been maligned as a source of funding for innovative research due to stories of failures caused by factors such as bureaucratic micromanagement, overly-restrictive regulation, and lack of customer focus. While basic research may be regarded as a public good, and therefore within the domain of government funding, applied research is often considered best left to the private sector. One government agency sometimes mentioned as an exception to the rule of government mismanagement in applied research is the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Founded in 1958, ARPA has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments in the area of military technology. Ironically, the agency is known equally well for the commercial spin-offs of its research, particularly in the area of computer technology. These commercial successes have led many in Washington, D.C. to believe the agency's research agenda should be expanded to focus explicitly on "dual-use" technologies, with the intent of benefiting both the commercial and military sectors simultaneously. Reflecting this mission expansion, in recent years ARPA also has been viewed as a funding instrument to prop up America's high-technology industries against foreign competition. Surprisingly, no study has attempted to quantify ARPA's impact on technology in relation to its investment. This paper lays the groundwork for such an effort by surveying the most promising research evaluation methods, reviewing the sources of information available to support an evaluation, and identifying the potential pitfalls. Through a survey of articles related to ARPA and a review of a study commissioned by the agency in the late 1980s, the paper identifies factors potentially responsible for ARPA's well-known list of achievements. Finally, the study warns that ARPA's recent direction may have taken it off the trail-blazing path it once traveled.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Economics and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Timothy W. Swett November, 1995