In last week’s testimony before Congress, Dr. Regina Dugan, director of DARPA, warned the House Armed Services Committee that the US was facing a lack of a critical resource — a lack so severe that it endangers the security of the nation. Dugan wasn’t talking about oil, or rare earth minerals, or plutonium, but something far more important to America’s defense: nerds.
Yes, according to Dugan, the lack of emphasis on science and engineering education in America has resulted in possible future manpower shortages for an agency that Dugan herself called “the nation’s elite army of futuristic technogeeks.” Dugan said the coming shortage is pinching DARPA at both ends. Over the 2000s, DARPA saw its funding cut by half, making it harder to recruit new scientists. Simultaneously, US colleges graduated 43 percent fewer science and computing students, shrinking the pool of potential scientists for DARPA to choose from.