Is it possible to generate more efficient outcomes with respect to public procurement in general and defense acquisition in particular? Or are cost overruns inevitable when it comes to major engineering projects, like the development of modern weaponry? In this article, we draw on a unique data set of nearly 50 French armaments contracts in order to examine how one government has reformed its defense acquisition process over the past twenty years. Beginning in the early 1990s, France embarked on a series of policy reforms that enabled the state to contain skyrocketing weapons costs. We emphasize three, inter-related aspects of the defense acquisition environment in France that favored cost containment: first, hard budget constraints; second, the great technical capacity that the French government brought to bear on the weapons acquisition process, coupled with its iterative relationship with a small number of suppliers; and third, the use of contracting techniques that empowered project managers.