Last modified: 2013-06-30

#### Abstract

Over the last two decades, propositional satisfiability (SAT) has become one of the most successful and widely applied techniques for the solution of NP-complete problems. The aim of this paper is to investigate theoretically how SAT can be utilized for the efficient solution of problems that are harder than NP or co-NP. In particular, we consider the fundamental reasoning problems in propositional disjunctive answer set programming (ASP), BRAVE REASONING and SKEPTICA REASONING, which ask whether a given atom is contained in at least one or in all answer sets, respectively. Both problems are located at the second level of the Polynomial Hierarchy and thus assumed to be harder than NP or co-NP. One cannot transform these two reasoning problems into SAT in polynomial time, unless the Polynomial Hierarchy collapses.

We show that certain structural aspects of disjunctive logic programs can be utilized to break through this complexity barrier, using new techniques from Parameterized Complexity. In particular, we exhibit transformations from BRAVE and SKEPTICAL REASONING to SAT that run in time $O(2^k n^2)$ where k is a structural parameter of the instance and n the input size. In other words, the reduction is fixed-parameter tractable for parameter k. As the parameter k we take the size of a smallest backdoor with respect to the class of normal (i.e., disjunction-free) programs. Such a backdoor is a set of atoms that when deleted makes the program normal. In consequence, the combinatorial explosion, which is expected when transforming a problem from the second level of the Polynomial Hierarchy to the first level, can now be confined to the parameter k, while the running time of the reduction is polynomial in the input size n, where the order of the polynomial is independent of k. We show that such a transformation is not possible if we consider backdoors with respect to tightness instead of normality.

We think that our approach is applicable to many other hard combinatorial problems that lie beyond NP or co-NP, and thus significantly enlarge the applicability of SAT.