You probably don't know Regina Dugan's name, but for the past three years, she's been director of DARPA, the military's R&D lab. In a few weeks, she'll be moving into an executive position at Google, becoming one of the most senior military officials to cross over to the private sector.
The news that Google is hiring another executive, which comes by way of Wired's Noah Shactman, isn't such a big deal, but the fact that she happens to have orchestrated one of the most innovative periods of battlefield technology might raise a few eyebrows. What in the world does Google have planned that it's hiring military leadership? Dugan's career in science and technology offers some clues, and based on what she told Fast Company last November, she appears to have a knack for innovating quickly. "The defense world is like a mini-society," she said. "It has to deploy to anyplace in the world on a moment's notice, and it has to work in a life-or-death situation. That kind of focus, that kind of drive to ship an application, really does inspire greater genius. And the constancy of funding that comes with that -- in good times or bad, whether this party or that party is in power -- also helps inspire innovation."
Whatever Google expects, Dugan's latest adventures in the Pentagon are pretty future forward. "Her push into crowdsourcing and outreach to the hacker community were eye-openers in the often-closed world of military R&D," explains Wired's Shachtman. "Dugan also won over some military commanders by diverting some of her research cash from long-term, blue-sky projects to immediate, battlefield concerns." Controversially, she is also purported to have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into a company she cofounded and still partially owns, though that situation is still under investigation.
We doubt Google's interested in building war machines, but by bringing Dugan on board, the company will inevitably have some tight connections with military leadership, which can't hurt. And if all else fails, they can just tuck her away in Google X secret labs, where we'll never hear from her again.