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# Towards painless policy optimization for constrained MDPs

*Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence*, PMLR 180:895-905, 2022.

#### Abstract

We study policy optimization in an infinite horizon, $\gamma$-discounted constrained Markov decision process (CMDP). Our objective is to return a policy that achieves large expected reward with a small constraint violation. We consider the online setting with linear function approximation and assume global access to the corresponding features. We propose a generic primal-dual framework that allows us to bound the reward sub-optimality and constraint violation for arbitrary algorithms in terms of their primal and dual regret on online linear optimization problems. We instantiate this framework to use coin-betting algorithms and propose the \textbf{Coin Betting Politex (CBP)} algorithm. Assuming that the action-value functions are $\epsilon_{\text{\tiny{b}}}$-close to the span of the $d$-dimensional state-action features and no sampling errors, we prove that $T$ iterations of CBP result in an $O\left(\frac{1}{(1 - \gamma)^3 \sqrt{T}} + \frac{\epsilon_{\text{\tiny{b}}} \sqrt{d}}{(1 - \gamma)^2} \right)$ reward sub-optimality and an $O\left(\frac{1}{(1 - \gamma)^2 \sqrt{T}} + \frac{\epsilon_{\text{\tiny{b}}} \sqrt{d}}{1 - \gamma} \right)$ constraint violation. Importantly, unlike gradient descent-ascent and other recent methods, CBP does not require extensive hyperparameter tuning. Via experiments on synthetic and Cartpole environments, we demonstrate the effectiveness and robustness of CBP.