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DARPA Director Regina Dugan takes job as Google senior executive

Regina Dugan, who spent the last 21/2 years as the first female director of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, has accepted a job as senior executive at Google Inc., a spokeswoman for DARPA confirmed.

Dugan was the 19th director of the Pentagon’s research arm, 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 with the 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, Dugan 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.”

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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, Google has invested heavily in a driverless car, revealed plans to build a multibillion-dollar wind farm in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and sponsored an international contest to land a robot on the moon.

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

In an email to The Times, a DARPA spokeswoman pointed out that most of the agency’s directors serve only two or three years in the top spot.

“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 develop 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.

deborah.netburn@latimes.com


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