This chapter addresses corruption and conflicts of interest in the U.S. federal acquisition system. Outside its scope are the subcentral procurement systems (that is, the procurement systems of the U.S. state and local governments), which, unlike in almost every other country in the world, are different and legally completely separate from the national government's system. The federal procurement system is itself quite large, covering the purchase of goods and services, which for the past several years has totaled more than $530 billion each year. Even at the federal level, this chapter does not reach beyond procurement, so that the more than $500 billion a year spent on grants and financial assistance are outside the scope of the discussion here, as are the appointment and patronage process. A brief introduction to the federal acquisition system is necessary for context, particularly for non-American readers, since the way the system deals with corruption and conflicts of interest is best understood in that context. Five characteristics may be most important in that regard. The U.S. acquisition system has a long history and is based on a detailed statutory and regulatory scheme. The roots of the federal procurement system can be traced back to the 19th century (and arguably back to the War of Independence in the 18th century). Today, the bedrock of the federal procurement laws is the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, supplemented by reform legislation from the 1990s, and implemented through the very detailed Federal Acquisition Regulation (the FAR).
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