Contracting and networking: Some notes on decision making

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference


Midwest Political Science Association


We examine contracting-out decisions in the federal government to determine the extent to which previous contracting awards to one contractor influence later contracting awards to the same contractor. With a declining contract management workforce trying to award an ever increasing number of governmental contracts, bureaucrats may be avoiding uncertainty in their contract decision-making by relying more on previous experience, rather than objective data, to influence their contract decision process. Ironically, this dynamic implies that while initial successes might promise, but not guarantee, more success, risks could actually get built into the relationship and difficult to manage down the road. This also creates a government-contractor network whose primary goal is to support initial decisions sometimes to the detriment of agency learning and contractor performance. We test this decision premise by examining contracting decisions in federal agencies over the last seven years. The paper concludes by specifying conditions for (better) learning and decision making mechanisms in contracting-out.


Contracting out; Decision making; Federal government; Public contracts; United States


Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods | Political Science | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration




Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association 67th Annual National Conference, April 3-6, Chicago, IL


Use Find in Your Library, contact the author, or use interlibrary loan to garner a copy of the article. Publisher copyright policy allows author to archive post-print (author’s final manuscript). When post-print is available or publisher policy changes, the article will be deposited