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DoD Watchdog Finds Former DARPA Director Violated Ethics Rules

Regina Dugan

Regina Dugan, former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General (IG) released a report finding ethics violations by Regina Dugan, former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The report was prompted by the Project On Government Oversight in 2011, after reports showed the Dugan had financial and familial ties to DARPA contractor RedXDefense, LLC (RedX), a company providing narcotics, explosives, and gunshot residue detection services.

In 2005, Dugan co-founded and became the chief executive of contractor RedX. RedX received contracts from DARPA in 2006 and 2007. Dugan took over DARPA in July 2009. Soon thereafter, she provided briefings to government officials containing references to RedX, RedX copyrighted materials, and slogans used by the company.

Specifically, the DoD IG found that Dugan:

violated the JER [Joint Ethics Regulation] prohibition against endorsements, and that her actions were inconsistent with the JER’s direction to avoid actions which created the appearance of a violation. In communications with senior DoD officials, she used RedX proprietary and other materials originally developed for and used in RedX sales presentations. 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 also found that “Dugan implicitly endorsed RedX to DoD officials who were in a position to create business opportunities for RedX,” and that she “did not fully disclose all the relevant circumstances” to agency ethics officials. However, the IG did not find any evidence that RedX received any contracts or new revenue because of Dugan’s indiscretions.

This case shows that the government needs stronger laws and rules to prevent and punish actual or apparent conflicts of interest. No matter if it’s personal dealings or a competitive advantage obtained when people go through the revolving door, the government is often unable to hold people and companies accountable. The Dugan case basically ended with the DoD IG declaring, “no harm, no foul.” With the government’s acceptance of such practices and its continued reliance on contractors, I don’t see a decline in these kinds of questionable dealings in the near future.

Image from Flickr user nosillacast.

By: Scott H. Amey, J.D.
General Counsel, POGO

Scott Amey Scott Amey is General Counsel for the Project On Government Oversight. Some of Scott's investigations center on contract oversight, human trafficking, the revolving door, and ethics issues.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Conflicts of Interest, Revolving Door, Department of Defense (DOD), Defense

Authors: Scott H. Amey, J.D.

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