How Incentives and Overpromising by Public Officials Contribute to Cost, Schedule, and Performance Shortfalls in U.S. Defense Acquisition Programs

Defense acquisition programs in the United States continue to experience significant cost, schedule, and performance shortfalls despite decades of learning and numerous attempts at reform. This thesis examines one of the reasons for this problem—namely, how the incentives facing public officials lead them to overpromise what they can deliver and how this behavior contributes to shortfalls. First, a theoretical framework is established, and then it is tested against the findings contained in numerous reports and testimonies produced by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The thesis concludes by applying the lessons learned to a brief analysis of acquisition reform.

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To view the Graduate Policy Essays of other Meratus Fellows and alumni, check out the MGPE archive