The Public-Private Dilemma: A Strategic Improvement Agenda for U.S. Department of Defense Depot Maintenance

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Virginia Tech


Since the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been challenged to formulate and make strategic decisions, especially in areas related to the Department's "business operations." Strategic decisions are those that focus on setting long-term organizational direction. This has proven difficult because a rather simplistic (and somewhat comforting) DoD organizational orientation toward an "either/or" or "us versus them" decision-making mindset that was once ubiquitous and appropriate, given the nature of political and military threats, has been hard to shake.

This study reviews a particular manifestation of this dilemma: the decision-making arrangements associated with the provision of military depot maintenance services. An historical review of this topic shows a mixture of problems, progress, and promise. A strategic decision-making approach that draws upon Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith's Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) is proposed to improve the situation. It addresses key problems identified in the analysis and rests upon an approach to strategic decision making that is politically rational in nature. This approach, called a Strategic Improvement Agenda, is offered as a potential foil to the "us versus them" orientation.



public and private sector roles, advocacy coalitions, depot maintenance, strategic decision making