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The Efficiency of Incomplete Contracts: An Empirical Analysis of Air Force Engine Procurement


  • Keith J. Crocker
  • Kenneth J. Reynolds


This article examines the incentives of contractual parties to design agreements that are left intentionally incomplete with regard to future duties or contingencies. More complete contracts mitigate ex post opportunism and the associated distortions in unobservable investment, but at the cost of additional resources expended in ex ante design. The optimal degree of contractual incompleteness involves a tradeoff between these opposing forces, the magnitudes of which may be predicted based on observable characteristics of the transactors and of the exchange environment. The resulting hypotheses are tested using panel data on the pricing procedures using in Air Force engine procurement contracts. We conclude that the degree of contractual completeness chosen in practice reflects a desire by the parties to minimize the economic costs associated with contractual exchange.

Suggested Citation

  • Keith J. Crocker & Kenneth J. Reynolds, 1993. "The Efficiency of Incomplete Contracts: An Empirical Analysis of Air Force Engine Procurement," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(1), pages 126-146, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:randje:v:24:y:1993:i:spring:p:126-146

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    Cited by:

    1. Luc Baumstark & Claude Ménard & William Roy & Anne Yvrande-Billon, 2005. "Modes de gestion et efficience des opérateurs dans le secteur des transports urbains de personnes," Post-Print halshs-00103116, HAL.
    2. Michael Sykuta & Joseph Parcell, 2003. "Contract Structure and Design in Identity-Preserved Soybean Production," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 25(2), pages 332-350.
    3. Renaud Bellais & Martial Foucault & Jean-Michel Oudot, 2014. "Économie de la défense," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01052607, HAL.
    4. Sean M. Handley & Corey M. Angst, 2015. "The impact of culture on the relationship between governance and opportunism in outsourcing relationships," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(9), pages 1412-1434, September.
    5. Georgia Kosmopoulou & Xueqi Zhou, 2014. "Price Adjustment Policies in Procurement Contracting: An Analysis of Bidding Behavior," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(1), pages 77-112, March.
    6. Jim Rooney & Suresh Cuganesan, 2009. "Contractual and Accounting Controls in Outsourcing Agreements: Evidence from the Australian Home Loan Industry," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 19(2), pages 80-92, June.
    7. Patrick L. Warren, 2014. "Contracting officer workload, incomplete contracting, and contractual terms," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 45(2), pages 395-421, June.
    8. Demi Chung & David Hensher, 2015. "Risk Management in Public–Private Partnerships," Australian Accounting Review, CPA Australia, vol. 25(1), pages 13-27, March.
    9. Marcelo Bucheli & Joseph T. Mahoney & Paul M. Vaaler, 2010. "Chandler's Living History: "The Visible Hand" of Vertical Integration in Nineteenth Century America Viewed Under a Twenty-First Century Transaction Costs Economics Lens," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(s1), pages 859-883, July.
    10. Radygin Alexandr & Entov Revold & Apevalova E. & Shvetsov P., 2008. "Market Discipline and Contracts: Theory, Empiric Analysis, Law," Research Paper Series, Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, issue 117P.

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