Acquisitions specialization

This specialization is designed for students who seek rewarding careers in one of the fastest-growing fields of public service -- Acquisitions. SPP’s Acquisitions program features faculty with executive level experience, as well as an outstanding record of academic research, with frequent opportunities for funded graduate student research.  

The federal government is the world’s largest single buyer of goods and services, spending hundreds of billions of dollars to meet the country’s many critical requirements. Today, as the nation faces unprecedented budgetary pressures, the need to acquire these goods and services efficiently and effectively has never been greater.

Leaders and managers who can deliver better acquisition outcomes to support diverse areas, such as military operations, homeland security, the provision of health care, response to natural disasters, energy research and development, etc. are desperately needed.  Even as federal government spending has soared in recent years, the acquisition workforce has not kept pace.  Furthermore, based on current workforce demographics, well over half of the federal acquisition workforce will be eligible to retire within the next ten years.  As a result, thousands of new acquisition management employees are now beginning to be hired.

Similarly, as state and local governments feel their budgets increasingly squeezed, along with a simultaneous increase in demand for those services, they also see a need to hire “smart buyers.”  Though this program focuses on federal acquisitions, the experience and education offered will be of great value to students seeking to help state and local governments expand their capabilities to meet this need.

In addition to taking courses in acquisition management, federal government contracting and pricing, students will have the opportunity to conduct research and participate in acquisition-related activities in the School’s Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise.  Outside the classroom, students will have the opportunity to gain valuable professional experience through internships at federal agencies and elsewhere.

Acquisitions specialization curriculum

In addition to meeting the core requirements of their degree program, students specializing in Acquisitions are required to take:

  • Federal Acquisition: Concepts and Management (PLCY689A) Provides an overview of acquisition as one of the basic functions of government.  Specifically focuses on the scope of acquisition, including organizational structures, regulations, strategies and issues of acquisition processes and management, from the development of an initial capability or need, through design, development, production, fielding, sustainment, and disposal.  Introduces the principles and concepts that underlie successful acquisition management – from major systems development and production, through buying services and common commodities.  Discusses how these concepts apply at state and local levels.
  • Current issues in Federal Acquisition (PLCY689F) Explores ways to improve, from a public policy perspective, the efficiency and effectiveness with which the government goes about acquiring well over $300 billion of goods and services. Focuses, as an example case, on issues in federal acquisition from the U.S. Department of Defense’s perspective, since it buys the most goods and services and is often used as a model by other departments and agencies. Issues covered include: “requirements”; budgeting; Congress; science and technology; design, development, production and support (management and costs); competition; public/private partnerships; privatization; small business innovation; role of non-profits; government oversight; the press; the supplying industries (structure, conduct, performance – actual and desired); and international considerations (security, industrial structures and trade).
  • Two of the following courses:
    • Networks: Leading and Managing Across Sectors (PLCY698T)
    • Performance Management: Leading for Results (PLCY689X)
    • Nonprofit Management and Leadership (PLCY798Y)
    • Federal Budget (PLCY717)
    • State, Local and Nonprofit Financial Management (PLCY688F)

Sample plan of study for the Acquisitions (AC) specialization

Below is an example of how a student in this specialization may progress towards her degree semester by semester. It does not represent the only way to sequence the courses.


Federal Acquisitions specialization curriculum for students admitted before Fall 2019

Students admitted before Fall 2019 may meet the Federal Acquisitions specialization requirements by completing the following courses.

  • Federal Acquisition: Concepts and Management (PLCY689A)
  • Government Contracting and Pricing (PLCY698G)
  • Current issues in Federal Acquisition (PLCY689F)
  • One other public finance or public management and leadership course


For more information, please contact the Acquisitions specialization head, Professor William Lucyshyn