The Institutionalization of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Federal Government


Tina Nabatchi is a doctoral candidate in the public affairs program at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, and the research coordinator for the Indiana Conflict Resolution Institute. Her research interests include public management, public policy, and law, particularly in relation to conflict resolution, deliberative democracy, and sustainable development administration.


This article uses resource dependence and institutional theory to examine the implementation of the Administrative Dispute Resolution Acts of 1990 and 1996. The insights from these theories are employed to explain the diffusion of and variation in the application of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to different programmatic areas. Although agencies have generally complied with the direct requirements of the acts, their intent has not been fully realized. Several factors have complicated the implementation of the ADR Acts, prompting agencies to take different strategic approaches to the application of ADR in programmatic areas. In general, agencies have acquiesced to the use of ADR in employment disputes, compromised on ADR use in contracting and procurement disputes, and avoided ADR use in civil enforcement disputes. Finally, this article evaluates progress toward impact evaluations of the ADR Acts and suggests directions for future research.