Defense Agency Awarded Contract to Director’s Father's Company
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Here’s a moral conundrum for you. Let’s say that the director of a federal agency awarded a contract to a company she founded and which is now headed by her father and employs her sister. Is this an unacceptable conflict of interest or just another run-of-the-mill revolving door Washington deal?
Here are the details in the real world. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is one of the more intriguing corners of the U.S. government. It funds projects that explore the cutting edge of technology as they relate to national security.
On July 20, 2009, Regina Dugan, who had been a DARPA program manager from 1996 until 2000, was sworn in as DARPA’s first female director. Six months later, DARPA awarded a $400,000 research contract to a company called RedXDefense. In August 2010, RedXDefense received another contract from DARPA, an extension of the first one, this time in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. RedXDefense is a legitimate company that does important work in the field of explosives detection and threat screening and had done business with DARPA before. However, it’s the company’s history that makes these more recent contracts just a bit questionable.
That’s because it was DARPA director Regina Dugan who co-founded RedXDefense in 2005, along with her father, Vince Dugan, and her uncle, John Dugan. Regina Dugan served as the company’s president and CEO. When President Barack Obama tapped her to head DARPA, in accordance with federal ethics regulations, she agreed to disqualify herself from matters relating to RedXDefense. However, her father is currently the CEO of the company and her sister is the vice-president of marketing.
In an e-mail response to AllGov about the ethical anomaly of awarding a contract to the director’s family’s business, the media affairs office of DARPA insisted that “at no time did Dr. Dugan participate in any dealings between the Agency and RedXDefense related to this contract.”
Even if Dugan did not participate in the dealings between the agency she leads and the company run by her father, it surely must have come as a pleasant surprise to learn that DARPA’s contract management office had chosen the company she founded to do work for DARPA.
It is also worth considering whether President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates acted wisely when they chose the CEO of a defense contractor to lead an agency that does business with that company.
Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): Who is Regina Dugan? (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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