Regina Dugan, who has spent three years as director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will be heading to Google, the search giant confirms. DARPA is the place that has brought us—or rather, hopes to bring us—cyborg moths, instant fire suppression, Avatar-esque surrogates, and more. It also helped create that little thing called the Internet.
Dugan will be a “senior executive,” but it’s not clear what her role will be, exactly. Her title may be unique to Google, which employs a “chief Internet evangelist”—Vinton Cerf, another DARPA alum. Business Insider speculates, “it seems likely that she’ll work for cofounder Sergey Brin, who is focused on long-term research projects.” One possible place within Google for Dugan might be Google X, the lab that works on DARPA-esque projects. It is rumored that augmented-reality glasses created by Google X will be available for sale by the end of 2012.
On Wired’s Danger Room, Noah Shachtman notes that Dugan was a controversial figure within the Pentagon. She tried to keep DARPA’s work within the realm of possibility, rather than the mad-scientist projects that made the agency famous. (She once said it wasn’t “a place for self-indulging in wishes and hopes.”) Shachtman also notes, “The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is also actively investigating hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of contracts that Darpa gave out to RedX Defense — a bomb-detection firm that Dugan co-founded, and still partially owns.” However, representatives of both Dugan and the Office of the Secretary of Defense deny that her departure for Google has anything to do with that investigation. Rather, it was just too good an offer to pass up. Further, the Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Netburn writes:
in an email to The Times, a DARPA spokeswoman pointed out that most of DARPA’s directors serve only two or three years in the top spot anyway.
“Importantly, this is one of the hallmarks of DARPA’s success-innovative ideas stemming from new perspectives,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.