Given a directed graph G = (V,E) and an integer k>=1, a k-transitive-closure-spanner (k-TC-spanner) of G is a directed graph H = (V, E_H) that has (1) the same transitive-closure as G and (2) diameter at most k. These spanners were implicitly studied in access control, data structures, and property testing, and properties of these spanners have been rediscovered over the span of 20 years. The main goal in each of these applications is to obtain the sparsest k-TC-spanners. We bring these diverse
... areas under the unifying framework of TC-spanners. We initiate the study of approximability of the size of the sparsest k-TC-spanner for a given directed graph. We completely resolve the approximability of 2-TC-spanners, showing that it is Theta(log n) unless P = NP. For k>2, we present a polynomial-time algorithm that finds a k-TC-spanner with size within O((n log n)^1-1/k) of the optimum. Our algorithmic techniques also yield algorithms with the best-known approximation ratio for well-studied problems on directed spanners when k>3: DIRECTED k-SPANNER, CLIENT/SERVER DIRECTED k-SPANNER, and k-DIAMETER SPANNING SUBGRAPH. For constant k>=3, we show that the size of the sparsest k-TC-spanner is hard to approximate with 2^log^1-eps n ratio unless NP ⊆ DTIME(n^polylog n). Finally, we study the size of the sparsest k-TC-spanners for H-minor-free graph families. Combining our constructions with our insight that 2-TC-spanners can be used for designing property testers, we obtain a monotonicity tester with O(log^2 n /eps) queries for any poset whose transitive reduction is an H-minor free digraph, improving the Theta(sqrt(n) log n/eps)-queries required of the tester due to Fischer et al (2002).