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The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was created on November 27, 1957, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to eliminate competition among the military services for space funding and concentrate all military space funding in a single agency. ARPA's mission was to form and execute research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science and to reach far beyond immediate military requirements. The administration was responding to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957 and the perceived scientific and technological advantage the then-Soviet Union displayed in launching the Sputnik satellite.

ARPA was charged to "direct or perform such advanced projects in the field of research and development as the Secretary of Defense shall, from time to time, designate by individual project or by category." In plain language this meant that ARPA, along with the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was to regain technological superiority for the United States.

ARPA was renamed the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in March 1972, then renamed "ARPA" in February 1993, and then renamed "DARPA" again in March 1996.

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