Since its inception in 1958, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has grown to become the Defense Department’s most secret, most powerful, and most controversial military science research and development agency— “the Pentagon’s Brain.”

Created by President Eisenhower to prevent another Sputnik, and to focus primarily on defensive programs against nuclear weapons, the agency—and its imagination and scope—has expanded enormously with each passing year.

From Agent Orange in Vietnam to insect-sized drones in use today, from the earliest networked computers and the Internet to smart rockets and war zones under twenty-four hour video surveillance, DARPA is responsible for innovations that have changed the course of war, national security and strategic planning at the highest levels. Thousands of scientists and engineers have been engaged for decades in a technological arms race, using battlegrounds to test their science. The results have changed the way we fight and the world we know.

To uncover the secret history of DARPA in action, New York Times bestselling author Annie Jacobsen tracked down key players in DARPA’s Smart Weapons Program, past and present: neuroscientists building an artificial brain, cell biologists working on limb regeneration, the Nobel laureate who invented the laser, the four star general who invented DARPA’s exoskeleton, and many others. From DARPA’s earliest defensive advances to hundreds of ongoing programs (including ones in which War on Terror veterans with brain injuries are being used in DARPA experiments—chips are implanted in their brains to try to restore cognitive function) Jacobsen exposes both sides of the DARPA coin: the fantastic technological advances from which we all benefit, and the darker side drawn up in a race for military supremacy. Based on information from inside sources, exclusive interviews, private documents, and declassified memos, The Pentagon’s Brain reads like science fiction but is absolutely true, a groundbreaking look behind the scenes at the clandestine intersection of science and the American military.


“A brilliantly researched account of a small but powerful secret government agency whose military research profoundly affects world affairs.”
— Pulitzer Prize jury
“Filled with the intrigue and high stakes of a spy novel, Jacobsen’s history of DARPA is as much a fascinating testament to human ingenuity as it is a paean to endless industrial warfare and the bureaucracy of the military-industrial complex.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating and unsettling portrait of the secretive U.S. government agency. Jacobsen’s ability to objectively tell the story of DARPA, not to mention its murky past, is truly remarkable.”
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“This engrossing, conversation-starting read is highly recommended.”
Library Journal
“Annie Jacobsen’s considerable talents as an investigative journalist prove indispensable in uncovering the remarkable history of one of America’s most powerful and clandestine military research agencies. And she is a great storyteller, making the tantalizing tale of The Pentagon’s Brain — from the depths of the Cold War to present day — come alive on every page.”
— Gerald Posner, author of God’s Bankers
“[The] definitive history of the clandestine agency”
Booklist, Starred Review