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Circulation Control for Faster Minimum Cost Flow in Unit-Capacity Graphs

2020 IEEE 61st Annual Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS)(2020)

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We present an m 4/3+o(1) logW-time algorithm for solving the minimum cost flow problem in graphs with unit capacity, where W is the maximum absolute value of any edge weight. For sparse graphs, this improves over the best known running time for this problem and, by well-known reductions, also implies improved running times for the shortest path problem with negative weights, minimum cost bipartite b-matching when ||b||1=O(m), and recovers the running time of the currently fastest algorithm for maximum flow in graphs with unit capacities (Liu-Sidford, 2020). Our algorithm relies on developing an interior point method-based framework which acts on the space of circulations in the underlying graph. From the combinatorial point of view, this framework can be viewed as iteratively improving the cost of a suboptimal solution by pushing flow around circulations. These circulations are derived by computing a regularized version of the standard Newton step, which is partially inspired by previous work on the unit-capacity maximum flow problem (Liu-Sidford, 2019), and subsequently refined based on the very recent progress on this problem (Liu-Sidford, 2020). The resulting step problem can then be computed efficiently using the recent work on lp-norm minimizing flows (Kyng-Peng-Sachdeva-Wang, 2019). We obtain our faster algorithm by combining this new step primitive with a customized preconditioning method, which aims to ensure that the graph on which these circulations are computed has sufficiently large conductance.
minimum cost flow,shortest path,interior point method
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