This brief paper proffers a conceptual model for procurement reform in the United States today. The paper argues that much of the current reform can be understood as an attempt to bring order to the devolution of the contracting function, from users, to agency contracting officials, to centralized purchasing agencies, and now, finally, to private contractors. The paper argues that this devolution is, in fact, an outsourcing of the contracting function, and that therefore classic models of private-sector outsourcing should be applicable. The government should, in other words, be asking whether the contracting function should be outsourced, and if so, whether that function is being properly devolved, with appropriate checks and limits. This model, which assesses U.S. procurement reform against the rush to devolve the contracting function, applies equally well to the procurement reform legislation pending before Congress. The various procurement reform measures in the pending defense authorization bills reflect Congress' effort to curb - or at least control - the devolution of the contracting function, because of rising concern that too much authority has devolved too far.
GW Paper Series
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 150; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 150
Christopher R. Yukins, Understanding the Current Wave of Procurement Reform - Devolution of the Contracting Function, 47 Gov't Cont. (2005).