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DARPA director Regina Dugan takes job as Google senior executive

March 13, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • This still from a YouTube video shows Regina Dugan talking about Sputnik at a conference last year.
This still from a YouTube video shows Regina Dugan talking about Sputnik… (YouTube )

Regina Dugan, who spent the past two and a half years as the first female director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), has accepted a job as senior executive at Google, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed.

Dugan was the 19th director of the military agency, founded in 1958 after the Russians sent Sputnik into space. The agency's founding mission was "prevention and invention of strategic surprise."

To that end, DARPA has funded the development of science-fiction-style technologies including a robotic cheetah and prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by your mind. Night vision and GPS also came out of projects backed by DARPA, and back in the late 1970s and '80s the agency was responsible for the development of the Internet.

In an interview with Walt Mossberg at the D: All Things Digital conference in 2011, she wore a T-shirt with the logo I3 on the front and explained that it stood for "impossible, improbable, inevitable, which is a common progression of programs at DARPA."

That type of thinking should dovetail nicely at Google, a company that makes most of its money through online advertising but also works on its own science-fiction-style projects. For example, the company has invested heavily in a driverless car, revealed plans to build a multibillion-dollar windfarm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sponsored an international contest to land a robot on the moon. 

Dugan felt she could not turn down an offer from such an innovative company, Wired reports.

And 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.

Dugan is not the first high-profile person with a DARPA background to work at Google. Vinton Cerf, who helped found the Internet while working as a program director at DARPA from 1976 to 1982, has held the unusual title of chief Internet evangelist for Google since 2005.

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