IG probes favoritism in DARPA contracts

The Defense Department’s cutting-edge technology agency will undergo a number of special audits from DOD's inspector general to determine whether there are any contracting conflict-of-interest concerns with its director and a contracting company.

The Project on Government Oversight raised concerns in May with the IG about Regina Dugan, director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and a contractor RedXDefense. According to POGO, Dugan founded the defense company and her father currently runs the business. POGO received a letter from the IG on Aug. 12 in response to its information.


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POGO has raised questions about the nearly $2 million in contracts that had been awarded to RedXDefense since Dugan became director in July 2009. The group’s letter also cited Dugan’s disclosure that RedXDefense owed her $250,000 in an outstanding loan.

RedXDefense had no comment about the situation.

In a separate memo from July 26, the IG wrote that auditors will also check other funding from DARPA, including programs in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

So far, the IG’s auditing arm has already started its initial audit of DARPA’s selection and administration of contracts awarded during fiscal 2010 and 2011, according to the letter sent to POGO.

In a statement released Aug. 16, Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, said DARPA’s dealings with RedXDefense need special attention.

“Conflicts of interest — even if they’re only perceived conflicts — undermine the public’s trust in government,” she said.

One expert said whatever the IG may find, this certainly will pull attention away from DARPA’s work.

“Something like this is certainly a distraction," said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners. "However much remains to be seen."

Allen expressed surprise that no one at DOD caught this potential conflict of interest, despite DARPA’s reputation and all its cutting-edge projects.

“The internal vetting for its director should have caught the issues behind the current allegations,” he said. “Full disclosures by senior people are imperative, and most senior people in government understand that.”


About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Fri, Aug 19, 2011 magivens

I am privileged to be a former DARPA employee - too bad this brings negative publicity to such an elite and esteemed organization.

Thu, Aug 18, 2011

How can this be? A person in a position of authority taking advantage of the system? Where is the precident for that? Actually, Ms. Dugan should not have taken the government job in the first place.

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 xdarpapm

it's an unfortunate blight on this extraordinary agency. These allegations are over a year old and were discussed (with disgust) openly in the bars and restaurants in Arlington long before they were reported in the press. Ken and Regina should have resigned months ago to spare the Agency further embarrassment.

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 ex-DARPA Paid Evaluator

"The Secretary had to pay that dollar and a half. He thought the United States would admire both his economy and his honesty in getting the work done at half price and not putting a pretended Indian's signature to the voucher, but the United States did not see it in that light.

The United States was too much accustomed to employing dollar-and-a-half thieves in all manner of official capacities to regard his explanation of the voucher as having any foundation in fact.

But the next time the Indian sawed wood for us I taught him to make a cross at the bottom of the voucher--it looked like a cross that had been drunk a year--and then I "witnessed" it and it went through all right. The United States never said a word. I was sorry I had not made the voucher for a thousand loads of wood instead of one.

The government of my country snubs honest simplicity but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two." Mark Twain - Roughing It chapter XXV

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 Mark

This is the reason that and organizational leader allows contracts to be granted to family members, or associates that they know. Sorry, but it seems pretty fishy that the father owns the company the contracts are being granted too regardless of the backend CYA that is going on. I think there is a solid reason for the IG to review this, and I would like to see more of these reviews occur in other agencies.

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