The announcement for next year’s Computer Science Study Group (CSSG) is out. The deadline for proposals is August 25. As stated in the call:
DARPA seeks junior faculty with research interest in computer science, to serve as Principal Investigators to explore novel ideas that lead to fundamental technological advances that benefit the US Department of Defense.
Although one might not expect it (I didn’t), the CSSG is fairly “theory friendly”. I was selected for the CSSG this past year, and Rocco Servedio was chosen two years ago. Moreover, explicitly listed as “technologies of interest” are complexity theory(!), approximation algorithms, machine learning, and network modeling. (They also accept proposals that are not in the areas of interest.) Perhaps this should not be too surprising, given that mathematician Ben Mann is behind the program. Given Lipton’s recent post about NSF grants tending to go to “low risk” projects, let me add that I think DARPA is very open to “high risk” ideas. (Unfortunately for Lipton, the CSSG is only for junior faculty.)
Since I was part of the CSSG this year, let me say a few words about what a great opportunity it is. The purpose of the program is to introduce computer scientists to the US Department of Defense (DoD) and its research challenges. The program begins with a 1 year overview of the DoD, during which time CSSG members spend 4 weeks throughout the year touring DoD agencies and facilities. (See below.) Following this, members are supposed to propose a project of specific relevance to the DoD that will be funded for up to 2 years. Finally, through contacts established as part of the program, members are expected to obtain independent funding from a DoD agency, which will be matched by DARPA. Yes, the ability to obtain SECRET clearance is required.
We have had two of the four weeks so far. Highlights have included a visit to the control room of the Pentagon, a tour of a Navy submarine, jumping out of a 34-ft tower (that is how paratroopers learn), and flying on a military aircraft. Of particular interest to cryptographers, we visited and spoke with people at IDA, DIA, and DISA (other intelligence agencies will be in the Fall); saw the Naval Network Warfare Command; and (on the next trip) will see STRATCOM, where the new US Cyber Command will report.
Anyone interested in applying please feel free to contact me for further details.