New book looks at managing contracts for complex projects

VanSlyke, DavidPublic administration and international affairs professor David Van Slyke, along with co-authors Trevor Brown and Matthew Potoski, has coauthored a new book, Complex Contracting: Government Purchasing in the Wake of the US Coast Guard’s Deepwater Program.  Using social science concepts, the book addresses the topic of government acquisitions of big, complex products such as weapons systems and major infrastructure projects.  It assesses contract management practices and suggests strategies for improvement and ways to avoid pitfalls. 

Van Slyke’s book uses as a real-life example the U.S. Coast Guard's Deepwater program.  Begun in 2002, this high-profile and controversial case consisted of a projected 25-year, $24 billion contract through which the U.S. Coast Guard would buy a system of new boats, aircraft, communications, and control architecture to replace its aging fleet. The book analyzes the reasons why that particular program failed and applies the lessons learned to similarly complex contracting scenarios.

"With this work, Professors Brown, Potoski and Van Slyke have formulated an insightful view into the challenges and opportunities of complex contracting. The focus is on a large scale, complex acquisition program managed by a federal agency, but provides guidelines applicable to any program in the public or private sectors -- particularly for those who seek to do business with or for the federal government and the necessity to get it right,” says Sean O'Keefe, Chief Executive, EADS North America; former NASA Administrator; Secretary of the Navy; Chancellor of Louisiana State University; and Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Defense.