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Google's Regina Dugan may have violated ethics rules while at DARPA

Google's Regina Dugan may have violated ethics rules while at DARPA

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Dr. Regina Dugan, who formerly led the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), violated ethics rules during her time there, according to a report from the Defense Department Inspector General. Navy Times says the report found "conflicting financial interests" owing to Dugan's relationship with RedXDefense, a company that builds devices capable of detecting narcotics, explosives, and gunshot residue. Dugan founded the firm in 2005 and oversaw operations as CEO until taking on the top DARPA position in 2009, though she's long maintained a financial stake in the company. She never tried to hide or conceal those ties; Dugan immediately recused herself from all matters involving RedXDefense when she became director of the Defense Department's research agency.

But after RedXDefense won $1.75 million in contracts under Dugan's eye, a watchdog group called for the IG to make sure "DARPA selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity." That complaint was filed in 2011 and an investigation got underway soon thereafter. Dugan ultimately left her post (and government work) a few months later to join Google's ranks. So far, her team has produced innovative concepts like electronic tattoos and "vitamin authentication" for Motorola; Dugan will remain at Google after Motorola's sale to Lenovo.

A watchdog group cried foul when Dugan's old company won contracts

In regards to the investigation, Dugan and DARPA insisted there was no favoritism, pointing to the many contracts RedXDefense had lost out on as proof. But the IG reached a different conclusion. "We determined that Dr. Dugan violated the prohibition against using her government position for the stated or implied endorsement of a product, service, or enterprise,” said the report.

The investigation concluded more than a year ago, and no action has been taken against Dugan since. Similarly, the Defense Department Inspector General never recommended that Dugan should face any disciplinary action. In a statement, a spokesperson for Dr. Dugan told The Verge, "This matter was closed over a year ago. At no time did Dr. Dugan use her position as the Director of DARPA to make any endorsement – explicit or implied."