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The impact of industry consolidation on government procurement: Evidence from Department of Defense contracting

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  • Carril, Rodrigo
  • Duggan, Mark

Abstract

We study the relationship between market structure and public procurement outcomes. In particular, we ask whether and to what extent consolidation-driven increases in industry concentration affect the way in which the government procures its goods and services. We focus on the defense industry, by far the largest contributor to federal procurement spending in the U.S. This industry experienced a sharp increase in the level of concentration during the 1990s, driven by a series of large mergers between defense contractors. Using detailed microdata on Department of Defense (DoD) contract awards, we estimate the causal effect of industry concentration on a series of procurement outcomes, leveraging the differential impact of these mergers across product markets. We find that market concentration caused the procurement process to become less competitive, with an increase in the share of spending awarded without competition, or via single-bid solicitations. Increased concentration also induced a shift from the use of fixed-price contracts towards cost-plus contracts. However, we find no evidence that consolidation led to a significant increase in acquisition costs. We infer that the government’s buyer power, especially relevant in this context given the government is often the only purchaser, constrained firms from exercising any additional market power gained by consolidation.

Suggested Citation

  • Carril, Rodrigo & Duggan, Mark, 2020. "The impact of industry consolidation on government procurement: Evidence from Department of Defense contracting," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 184(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:184:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720300050
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104141
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    2. Thornton Jeremy & Lecy Jesse, 2019. "Good Enough for Government Work? An Incomplete Contracts Approach to the Use of Nonprofits in U.S. Federal Procurement," Nonprofit Policy Forum, De Gruyter, vol. 10(3), pages 1-18, October.
    3. Amy Finkelstein & Nathaniel Hendren, 2020. "Welfare Analysis Meets Causal Inference," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 146-167, Fall.
    4. Boland, Matthew & Godsell, David, 2021. "Bureaucratic discretion and contracting outcomes," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 88(C).
    5. Rodrigo Carril, 2021. "Rules Versus Discretion in Public Procurement," Working Papers 1232, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    6. Amy Finkelstein & Nathaniel Hendren, 2020. "Welfare Analysis Meets Causal Inference," NBER Working Papers 27640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Public procurement; National defense; Horizontal mergers; Antitrust;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • H57 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Procurement
    • L41 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Monopolization; Horizontal Anticompetitive Practices

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