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The American Presidency and the Power of the Purchaser


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article appeared in The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, Vol.10, no. 2 (July 2012).


As the CEO of the administrative state, the president has the procurement power to dictate the terms and conditions on which the federal government will do business with the private sector. By way of delegated statutory authority, executive order, and agency procurement and acquisition rules, the president can call the shots. Anyone wishing to do business with the federal government must meet the president's contract terms and conditions. Presidents use this “power of the purchaser” to exercise political control over procurement rulemaking and to influence public policy in areas unrelated to the federal government's “efficient” purchase of goods and services. Procurement—and the power of the purchaser—must be viewed as a powerful weapon of coercion and redistribution in the president's political and policy-making arsenal.