In 2012, Dr. Regina Dugan took her talents to Google from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, where she was the first woman to lead that Defense Department agency. It's a position she held for three years until jumping ship into the more lucrative private sector.
Now with Google for two years, Dugan must still face critics within the Defense Department who revealed that she has been under investigation since 2011 for ethics violations, namely that she used her position within DARPA to help promote a high-tech research company that she created, according to the department's Inspector General (IG).
According to the IG's report, Dugan had "conflicting financial interests" in RedX Defense, a bomb-detection technology firm. Dugan was the founder, president and CEO of the company.
"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 report said.
The investigation resulted from a 2011 complaint from the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group. POGO brought to the IG's attention that RedX Defense, Dugan's company, was the recipient of $1.75 million in contracts under Dugan's directorship of DARPA. The investigation was completed in late 2012, by which time Dugan had already settled in with Google.
The report also revealed that Dugan did meet with DARPA attorneys about the investigation, but failed to "fully disclose all the relevant circumstances," such as her intention to use RedX copyrighted material in briefings with senior defense officials.
As director of DARPA, she was faced with a daunting case of "Can You Top This?" as DARPA was renowned as the creator of the global positioning system (GPS), the stealth fighter and the Internet. For Dugan, leading DARPA would be a tough act to follow considering the impressive achievements the agency had already accomplished.
Dugan, a mechanical engineer by training, focused on cybersecurity and new efficiencies in manufacturing, and on meeting goals and deadlines. This very businesslike, CEO-approach to running a government agency caught the attention of Eric Schmidt, Google chairman.
Dugan was eventually hired by Dennis Woodside, head of Google's Motorola unit, and tasked with turning around the somnambulant brand. With Motorola now sold to Lenovo, Dugan has been placed in charge of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP). Its primary mission is to deliver big, whooping disruptive advancements in mobile communications technology.