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Bureaucratic Political Decision Making: The Acquisition of Joint STARS

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This paper examines bureaucratic political decision making, defined by Graham T. Allison as different players bargaining along regularized circuits from which a particular course of action or result emerges that is distinct from what any of the players originally sought. The decisions examined were made during the acquisition of the Air force and Armys Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System Joint STARS. As methodology, the paper will test three theses that correspond with critical phases of the systems life span, comparing the actions of the predominate players in the decision making process Congress, the Air Force, and Grumman Corporation, the Joint STARS primary contractor. The first thesis tested is that the Air Force fully supported the Joint STARS program and fought to keep Congress from cutting funding between 1985 and 1990. The second is that the Air Forces decision to send the system to the Gulf War was an effort to save the program from future funding cuts. The third thesis is that once the system had proven itself in combat, funding for full production was virtually assured. Before discussing each thesis, however, the author provides information on the systems background. The examination shows that, individually, the decisions of each player -- Congress, the Air Force, and Grumman Corporation -- can be viewed in terms of Allisons Rational Actor and Organizational Process models. However, when the decision making process of each thesis is studied in the context of various players bargaining and maneuvering along the same circuit, then Allisons model of bureaucratic politics emerges. In the end, the Joint STARS acquisition decisions produced a different result than any of the players originally sought.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Active and Passive Radar Detection and Equipment

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