Tech

Google’s Regina Dugan Violated Ethics Rules While Heading Up DARPA

Giuseppe Macri
Tech Editor

Google’s Regina Dugan violated ethics rules while heading the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency by awarding government contracts to a company she founded, according to a Department of Defense investigation.

The department’s inspector general found that while at DARPA Dugan had ”conflicting financial interests” with a company called RedXDefense, which Dugan founded in 2005, according to a Navy Times report. RedXDefense builds technologies to detect explosives, gunshot evidence and narcotics.

A Wired report from 2012 raised speculation over the ability of the company’s products to achieve their purposes, and quoted one defense official as saying RedXDefense tech was less efficient than a “coin flip” when it came to detecting bombs.

Dugan acted as CEO of RedXDefense from 2005 until 2009, when she took the top spot at DARPA, the Pentagon’s forward-thinking weapons development division. Dugan reportedly exited all RedXDefense affiliations at that time, but has maintained a longstanding financial stake in the company.

Later under Dugan’s leadership, RedXDefense was awarded $1.75 million in defense department contracts, prompting non-profit government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) in 2011 to demand an internal investigation to ensure “DARPA selects and awards grants and contracts with integrity.”

Months later in 2012 amid the ongoing investigation, Dugan left DARPA to join Google’s Motorola division. The DOD IG investigation was completed by the end of 2012, and recently released to Military Times following a December information request.

“We determined that Dr. Dugan violated the [Joint Ethics Regulation] prohibition against using her Government position for the stated or implied endorsement of a product, service, or enterprise,” the Wednesday report said.

The report further states that Dugan did bring her endorsements of RedXDefense to DARPA attorneys, but did not “fully disclose all the relevant circumstances,” including her use of RedXDefense copyrighted sales materials to brief senior defense officials on possible product contracts.

“Unfortunately I think this is more the rule than the exception,” POGO lawyer Scott Amey commented after reading the report, which he said “highlights concerns with the revolving door and problems in actually enforcing restrictions on people that come and go from the public sector and the private sector.”

Dugan and DARPA claim there was no special privilege granted to RedXDefense during Dugan’s tenure as director, and pointed to contracts the company failed to acquire as proof.

Despite the investigation’s findings and conclusion more than a year ago, Dugan has not and is not expected to garner any sort of reprimand or suffer any consequences, and the DOD IG did not suggest any disciplinary action in the report.

“At no time did Dr. Dugan use her position as the director of DARPA to make any endorsement — explicit or implied,” a Google spokesperson told Military Times Wednesday.

After its completion Dugan tried to argue the report’s conclusions, which the IG addressed in the recently released version: “[A]fter carefully considering Dr. Dugan’s response, we stand by our original conclusion.”

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