Every program at DARPA is intensely technically scrutinized by the tech council

This council is composed of people with technical expertise in the area of the proposed program. The Tech Council Pitch Meeting is meant to be very high level but then has the possibility of digging in anywhere. At the end of the day, the tech council doesn’t have any power besides advising the director on the programs technical soundness. A purely advisory tech council seems like a good idea because it both avoids decision by committee (Decisions made by committees lead to median results) and keeps all responsibility squarely on the director.

PMs should have ‘derisked’ the idea before going into the meeting by using seedling programs to show that the idea behind the program is not impossible and may in fact be possible. (DARPA PMs use seedling programs to ‘acid test’ the riskiest pieces of a program idea and The DARPA execution framework boils down to showing that thing is not impossible, showing that thing is possible, and then making that thing possible. The way the tech council meeting was described to me is that it’s roughly like a university seminar in a room full of people who you cannot bullshit and have enough technical experience to dig into anything about the program. It’s important that the meeting be egoless and clearly focused on making the program as good as possible because this sort of thing can easily go down a rabbit hole if people feel the need to show how smart they are or just destroy the presenter. The need for the tech council to ‘get it’ suggest that is should be be composed other PMs.

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