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DARPA Director Regina Dugan Leaves Defense Department For Google

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Today brings some rather high-profile recruiting from Google: the director of DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research arm, is leaving after three years of heading the agency to join Google at a “senior executive position.”

The news comes from a DARPA spokesman, who reports that Dugan felt she couldn’t refuse an offer from such an “innovative company.” She has worked at the agency on and off since 1996, and most recently has brought its budget and resources to bear on more practical problems like securing military networks. What role she will play at Google is unknown, but it is probably at least partially security-related.

Dugan was originally a researcher and program manager, and ascended to director status in 2009. Although she has encouraged innovation and some so-called “blue sky” projects (research that may stall or never see the light of day), she has also made efforts to fund what are, by DARPA standards, much more grounded projects. She has a few patents of her own in various areas of engineering and has published a book on engineering thermodynamics.

In November, she appealed to hackers and security experts to consider the problem of the military’s outdated data-protection methods. She seems to have intuited that while robot cheetahs, cornea displays, and hummingbird UAVs are all well and good, the physical battlefield isn’t the only real one. Cybersecurity is increasingly important even in real-world security; NASA just recently said it had been hacked thousands of times, possibly losing valuable and sensitive data to hackers in China.

Dugan is the subject of an investigation (described as one of many “regular audits” but an investigation nonetheless) related to contracts being awarded to a firm for which she was a co-founder, but the DARPA spokesman said the departure for Google was unrelated.

She is expected to make the final switch in the next few weeks, by which time we will perhaps have more information on her new role at Google.

[image: Annette Polan]