Hansen, Thomas Dueholm3; Miltersen, Peter Bro3; Zwick, Uri2
1 Department of Computer Science, Science and Technology, Aarhus University2 Tel Aviv University3 Department of Computer Science, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
Ye  showed recently that the simplex method with Dantzig’s pivoting rule, as well as Howard’s policy iteration algorithm, solve discounted Markov decision processes (MDPs), with a constant discount factor, in strongly polynomial time. More precisely, Ye showed that both algorithms terminate after at most O(mn1−γ log n1−γ) iterations, where n is the number of states, m is the total number of actions in the MDP, and 0 < γ < 1 is the discount factor. We improve Ye’s analysis in two respects. First, we improve the bound given by Ye and show that Howard’s policy iteration algorithm actually terminates after at most O(m1−γ log n1−γ) iterations. Second, and more importantly, we show that the same bound applies to the number of iterations performed by the strategy iteration (or strategy improvement) algorithm, a generalization of Howard’s policy iteration algorithm used for solving 2-player turn-based stochastic games with discounted zero-sum rewards. This provides the first strongly polynomial algorithm for solving these games, solving a long standing open problem. Combined with other recent results, this provides a complete characterization of the complexity the standard strategy iteration algorithm for 2-player turn-based stochastic games; it is strongly polynomial for a fixed discount factor, and exponential otherwise.
Association for Computing Machinery. Journal, 2013, Vol 60, Issue 1