Protection Contracts Are Going to the Greatest Linked, Not Essentially the Greatest

In new analysis, Şenay Ağca and Deniz Igan use the shock of the September 11 assaults and declaration of conflict on Afghanistan to indicate how protection contracts usually go to companies which might be finest linked to the Pentagon and federal authorities quite than these finest geared up to meet the wants of the contracts.

There’s a excessive diploma of interdependence between the federal government and the non-public sector, notably in federal procurement. The federal authorities is the biggest single purchaser of products and companies in america, with discretionary outlays amounting to about 7.5% of GDP since 2000. Companies collaborating in procurement bids usually have interaction in politically focused actions and rent former public officers and authorities workers with information of the procedures. 

Do political connections matter for a way a lot an organization receives in federal procurement contracts? We ask this query in our current paper by specializing in the September 2001 terrorist assault and the conflict in Afghanistan instantly following the assault as an surprising shock that elevated protection spending. We look at the relation between political connections and the quantity of protection contracts companies obtained following this occasion. protection contracts notably helps to elucidate this relation since protection spending constitutes about half of annual federal discretionary outlays.

Protection Contracts and Political Connections

Complete greenback quantity of protection contracts elevated from $170 billion in fiscal 12 months 2002 (October 1, 2001-September 30, 2002) to $212 billion in fiscal 12 months 2003. This corresponded to a change of 25% in whole protection procurement funding inside a 12 months and can be mirrored in a 16% enhance in protection discretionary spending authorization—the sharpest leap noticed because the Reagan-era army buildup. 

The portion of whole procurement funding allotted to protection contracts additionally elevated from 65% in fiscal years 2001 and 2002 to 67% in fiscal 12 months 2003. A noteworthy remark is that the protection share was steady between 2000 and 2002, implying that protection and non-defense spending grew at comparable charges. Certainly, wanting on the progress in protection and non-defense discretionary spending earlier than the occasion, we are able to affirm that they developed equally till fiscal 12 months 2003. After the September 11 assaults and declaration of conflict on Afghanistan, non-defense spending continued to develop, however at a smaller fee than protection spending. So, there was no apparent reallocation of assets from non-defense to protection. 

Determine 1. Change in Discretionary Spending and Complete Protection Contracts (%)

The protection sector has additionally been one of the crucial politically lively, with lobbying expenditures having risen from an annual common of about $60 million earlier than 2001 to greater than $120 million in 2022. The sector’s marketing campaign contributions have equally grown from $8 million in 1990 to greater than $30 million in 2022. Furthermore, the revolving door has been fairly pervasive: there have been a minimum of 97 former members of Congress who lobbied for the biggest protection firms from 2003 by means of 2014, and 65% of protection lobbyists had employment histories spanning public service. 

After the shock

Companies that lobbied obtained bigger greenback quantities in protection contracts following the surprising shock in 2001. Moreover, companies that contributed to political election campaigns and that had board connections to the Pentagon obtained bigger contracts after the shock. Lobbying introduced in 47% extra in protection contracts after the occasion in comparison with the 11% enhance noticed for protection companies that didn’t foyer. For the standard protection agency that obtained the median worth of $1.9 million in contracts earlier than the occasion, this translated into virtually $880,000 extra in income for companies that lobbied versus $215,000 for companies that didn’t. The distinction of round $660,000 is a large return: even on the most stage of lobbying expenditure noticed in our pattern ($13.5 million), it implies a return of 5%. As protection contracts represent round 45% of federal discretionary spending, similar to round 3.5% of GDP, these outcomes are helpful in placing a greenback quantity on the worth of lobbying for a large phase of the financial system.

Contributions to election campaigns represent another channel for establishing political connections. PAC contributions to profitable candidates, specifically, will help firms acquire favorable therapy following elections. Contributing to campaigns introduced in 40% extra in protection contracts after the occasion in comparison with the 12% enhance noticed for different protection companies. This distinction corresponded to roughly half 1,000,000 {dollars} between a agency that contributes to campaigns and a agency that doesn’t.

We additionally explored the board connections of protection contractors to the Pentagon or to the Armed Forces by means of earlier employment or by means of having served on different boards with administrators that labored in these establishments prior to now. Companies with board connections to the Pentagon benefited from elevated protection funding after the shock. Board members in our pattern embrace a number of undersecretaries of Protection for Acquisition, Expertise and Logistics and assistant secretaries of Protection for Analysis and Engineering, in addition to positions on the Protection Science Board, the place they labored along with the undersecretaries and different high-ranking officers within the Pentagon. These connections had been probably useful in offering the linked companies with entry to main decision-makers in protection procurement contracts. Linked companies obtained 55% extra in contracts after the occasion whereas companies with out noticed a 14% enhance. For the pre-event median contract quantity, this meant that the standard linked agency obtained $767,000 greater than the standard agency with out such connections. 

Benefit or Political Connections?

Sure agency traits that form the choice to construct political connections might also relate to the flexibility to fulfill Pentagon’s war-related wants. For example, bigger companies, companies which might be in a position to execute bigger contracts, or companies with extra versatile working capability could discover it simpler to develop manufacturing shortly in response to a rise in protection efforts. The identical companies could also be higher linked as they’ve the assets to rent higher or extra lobbyists or appeal to influential former Pentagon workers as board members. In different phrases, throughout a speedy growth of protection spending, companies acquiring bigger protection contracts could also be these that may scale up their operations. If these companies are additionally those which might be politically linked, it’s doable that they obtain bigger contracts not essentially on account of political connections however on account of their capability to develop sooner. On this regard, we’ve got a direct take a look at how these linked companies experiencing a rise in protection contracts differ from others. 

We discover that companies that foyer are unlikely to be a mirrored image of their superior capability to assist the conflict effort. Quite the opposite, companies with much less capability as captured by their smaller dimension or inferior working efficiency acquire bigger federal contracts following the surge in protection spending in the event that they foyer. In an identical vein, companies which might be beneath much less scrutiny in contract awards in addition to these in nearer geographical proximity to the Pentagon headquarters get extra contracts in relation to their lobbying actions, all else equal. 

The proof doesn’t lend a lot assist to the concept that the Pentagon employs a merit-based awarding mechanism within the sense that these companies which might be much less fitted to the conflict effort profit extra from lobbying in acquiring federal contracts. The findings on the position of marketing campaign contributions and board connections additionally present comparable proof supporting the declare that the awarding mechanism noticed by the Pentagon is according to a political connection-based system quite than solely a merit-based mechanism.


We contribute to the continuing debate on the worth of political connections by specializing in federal procurement contracts and inspecting the position of political connections within the allocation of federal contracts following the surprising enhance in protection spending after the September 11 assaults and the next conflict in Afghanistan. 

General, political connections performed a task in acquiring bigger protection contracts after the surge in protection spending in 2002-2003. In different phrases, protection contract awards usually are not pushed purely by benefit issues. This might mirror varied mechanisms in a framework the place the interplay between authorities and companies is quite direct (procurement of federal contracts). For instance, there may very well be a quid professional quo association between lobbyists or board members and legislators or authorities companies that offers linked companies preferential therapy relative to their rivals that do not need connections. Alternatively, lobbyists or board members could use their information of the procurement course of to assist their shoppers in making ready bids with the next likelihood of being accepted or they could convey non-public, tender data to the procurement officer that may very well be related to her choice to simply accept or reject a bid. The stability of proof in our evaluation largely however doesn’t fully assist the quid professional quo rent-seeking mechanism.

Articles characterize the opinions of their writers, not essentially these of the College of Chicago, the Sales space College of Enterprise, or its school.

Originally posted 2023-05-02 10:00:00.