Computerworld offers A Peek Inside DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency responsible for inventing the Internet and other advanced technologies.
Projects of note include Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE), which is designed to "transcribe, translate & distill" data collected from English and foreign language sources into actionable information for human decision makers. Another, the Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL), is hoped will one day "automatically watch a conversation between two people and, using natural-language processing, figure out what are the tasks they agreed upon."
GALE in particular seems to be a promising endeavor. Researchers at Penn's Linguistic Data Consortium (LDC) are working to provide resources and tools for the project. Possibly the most interesting and impactful component is the Distillation engine, which seems to be the segment focused on "understanding" the information at hand. LDC has posted a thorough background & analysis of this function on their website.