Watchdog: Google executive broke ethics rules while working for Pentagon’s DARPA


Regina Dugan, then the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, speaks at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb.14, 2012. ( Photo by Jeffrey MacMillan )

A Google executive who previously ran a $3 billion Pentagon agency tasked with developing technology for the U.S. military violated ethics rules by pitching products from a company she had previously founded, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pentagon’s watchdog agency.

Regina E. Dugan, who ran the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from July 2009 until March 2012, was cited by the Defense Department Inspector General’s office for endorsing a specific product, service or enterprise, a breach of ethics.

The IG found that while serving as DARPA’s director she briefed numerous senior defense officials on methods for U.S. troops to find improvised explosive devices and bomb-making facilities. The meetings created potential business opportunities for the company RedXDefense, LLC, in which she was a former chief executive officer, said the IG report, released to The Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act.

“In communications with senior DoD officials, she used RedX proprietary and other materials originally developed for and used in RedX sales presentations,” states the IG report, available here. “She advanced a theory integral to RedX product development, promoted a multi-step process the RedX product suite used to implement the theory, highlighted the results of field trials that used RedX products to demonstrate the efficacy of the theory and process, and featured a RedX sales slogan. She also endorsed the adoption of an effort to put sensors on dogs, an extension of a DARPA project on which RedX performed.”

The IG detailed one Sept. 11, 2009, meeting with Marine Gen. James N. Mattis and Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz. Mattis, then the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, and Metz, then the commander of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, listened to a presentation from her that included elements of the sales pitch for her former company’s technology, including the slogan “Shoot the archer, not the arrow.”

At a minimum, the IG found, the presentation led to “the creation of a business lead for RedX.” She had sought legal advice on how to proceed with the meeting, investigators noted, but did not disclose that she would use RedX sales material in any of her presentations. The IG did not recommend any kind of punishment for the action.

Dugan denied the accusations, saying she sought legal counsel, the IG report said. A spokesperson for Google said Wednesday that the investigation was closed over a year ago, and made it clear the company stands by her.

“At no time did Dr. Dugan use her position as the Director of DARPA to make any endorsement — explicit or implied,” said a statement from Google.

Dugan’s connection to RedX was first examined in a March 2011 story by Wired magazine. The story, which was cited by the IG, noted that in a June 15, 2010, financial ethics report, she stated that she was owed $250,000 by RedX, which she co-founded with her father. DARPA had just awarded a $400,000 research contract to RedX six months before — after she already was running the agency.

Dugan left DARPA in 2012, after the IG had launched an investigation. But defense officials said that her departure from the government had nothing to do with the probe. At the time, she was lauded for focusing on U.S. troops on the battlefield, rather than the futuristic long-term projects for which DARPA is often known.

After leaving the Defense Department, Dugan led Google-owned Motorola’s secretive Advanced Technology Group, including an electronic neck tattoo designed to determine if someone is lying by assessing their voice. Google sold Motorola in January, but kept Dugan’s development organization in the corporation.

Staff writer Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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