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Half-way Through FY 2015, How Much Are Agencies Spending on Contracts?

It’s April, and that means we are half way through fiscal year (FY) 2015. So I thought I would take a look at the available federal contracting data to see what can we tell so far about how much federal departments have spent on contracts at the mid-point in the year and see what might be in store for us in the second half of FY 2015.

For comparison and context I looked the federal contract obligations reported for each federal agency for FY 2014, quarter by quarter, and then the first two fiscal quarters of FY 2015, which just closed at the end of March. Then, to get what I thought would be a conservative approach to estimating what spending might look like for the remainder of FY 2015 I took 90% of each agency’s total FY 2014 contract spending and subtracted out what agencies have already reported for actual Q1 and Q2 contract spending. In other words, my assumption is that agencies would spend at least 90% of what they did last year. Finally, based on this 90% spending assumption I calculated each agency’s FY 2015 Q1 and Q2 relative percentages of total (90%) estimated obligations.

Contract Obligations Compared

Historically, the twenty top-spending departments accounted for about 98% of all federal contract obligations, so I focused my attention on these departments. In FY 2014, these accounted for $85.9B and $105.2B in total contract obligations for Q1 and Q2 respectively. For comparison, these departments reported $104.7B and $141.7B in contract obligations for Q3 and Q4 respectively for FY 2014. (See table below.)

In FY 2015, these top twenty have reported $89.3B and $34.1B for Q1 and Q2 respectively, although DoD lags in their financial reporting by up to 90 days so Q2 is understated. Still, if these top agencies spend 90% of what they did in all of FY 2014 they will have more than $270B left to obligate in the remaining two quarters of this fiscal year.


  • A handful of departments have Q1 FY 2015 obligations lower than they did in Q1 of FY 2014 (DoD, USAF, State, DoT, Ed, and Labor). Most have marginally higher obligations year-over-year, although Navy reported over $6B (+40%) more in obligations in Q1 in FY 2015 than last year.
  • More departments appear to be lagging in Q2 FY 2015 compared to Q2 of last year and some of these are fairly large relative proportions. For example, HHS shows a $1B (-24%) decrease in Q2. Similarly, VA has reported a $1.1B (-30%) decrease. Finally, State, GSA, and DOT each have reported about a 50% drop in Q2 FY 2015 obligations from Q2 FY 2014. Of course, given the DoD’s three-month reporting delay we will not know the contracting rates among those departments until this summer.
  • Taken together, the four defense branches in Q1 FY 2015 have reported $3B more in obligations than they reported in Q1 of FY 2014, although the DoD and Air Force have reported lower levels year-over-year.  

A graphical representation of the relative proportions of each department’s contract spending gives a sense of seasonality and/or changes from year to year. Due to the sheer number of departments I have split these into Defense and Civilian segments. This further highlights the yearly changes for Navy, HHS, VA, State, GSA, and DOT. (See charts below.)



This kind of macro-level analysis is useful in getting a general sense of quarterly and yearly patterns across the departments. Of course, the remaining FY 2015 obligation estimation depends on its main 90% assumption. Last year, this approach pointed to roughly $285B in combined FY 2014 Q3 and Q4 obligations among the top twenty departments. A year later, the final FY 2014 Q3 and Q4 data shows that actual obligations came in at $246.4B, so at first glance it appears that my 90% assumption was a bit optimistic. However, the difference turns out to be a matter of timing rather than magnitude. The final FY 2014 Q1 and Q2 obligations given above come in at $69B higher than what agencies reported at this time last year, reflecting revisions due to lagging obligation data being added later in the year. So the numbers effectively washed out once the dust settled. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way of predicting how consistently agencies will report their contract spending from year to year.

As most federal business development people will attest, understanding your agency’s spending patterns goes a long way to being able to successfully work with them to get contracts awarded as well as develop your yearly business plan. 

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


State and USAID FY 2016 Discretionary and IT Budget Request Snapshot

Last month the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request and most federal departments and agencies saw notable increases in their overall discretionary and information technology (IT) budgets. The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for of International Development (USAID) were no exception.

Total Discretionary Funding

The Department of State and the USAID are slated to receive $43.2B in base discretionary funding for FY 2016, which is $6.2B (+16%) higher than FY 2015. The budget requests an additional $7.0B in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding.

Discretionary funding highlights include:

  • $3.5B to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and respond to the crisis in Syria, bolster regional security, and provide for related humanitarian needs
  • $1B to address the root causes of migration from Central America, including the migration of unaccompanied children
  • $5.4B for international organizations and peacekeeping missions to share global security responsibilities with other nations and respond to new peacekeeping requirements
  • $4.8B to support security requirements and overseas infrastructure to support the people, infrastructure, and programs that enable U.S. operations and relations with foreign governments
  • $190.5M for the Global Development Lab and the Bureau of Policy, Planning, and Learning at USAID to develop solutions and accelerate the transformation of U.S. development efforts

State and USAID Total IT and New Development Budgets

The State Department and USAID seek $1.6B (+15.4%) and $165.5M (+15.1%) respectively for FY 2016 IT. However, both agencies continue to focus their budgets on steady state or operations and maintenance (O&M) funding categories over Development/Modernization/Enhancement (DME) efforts. State’s $140.4M of total agency DME funds increases $3M from FY 2015, but these DME funds account for about 9% of the total FY 2016 IT budget, which is pretty consistent with the previous two years. USAID’s DME is $28.5M which is 17% of the total proposed budget for FY 2016. This proportion has declined from 22% and 20% in FY 2014 and FY 2015 respectively. (See table below.)


Noteworthy IT Programs

Looking at the specifics of both State’s and USAID’s IT investments and initiatives gives some deeper understanding.  Here are some initiatives that stand out among others due to relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending.

IT Funding Highlights

  • Bureau IT Support – At $230M (+13.1%), this investment encompasses centrally provided shared IT support services such as desktop services; telecomm, wireless & data services; peripherals; software; and any other IT infrastructure costs incurred by the bureaus.
  • CA Enterprise Management Services – Receiving $145M (+106%), this initiative consists of strategic planning and portfolio management, security, configuration control, quality management, training, deployment and communications for the CST portfolio as a whole.
  • CA Enterprise Operations – Increasing to 126.3M (+44%) for FY 2016, this investment consists of operations and maintenance, data center migration, applications and database services and service desk.
  • Legacy Consular Systems – Receiving $87.3M (+63%), this initiative supports a broad range of services systems, including Visa, ACS, Passport, Web, BI, AMS, CLASS, Fraud.
  • Steady State IT Infrastructure & Technology Modernization – USAID slates $57.4M (+2.5%) for its enterprise-wide IT infrastructure, communications, etc. 12% of this is DME funding.

New Development Funding

  • State – the two IT initiatives with the largest DME budgets are the Foreign Assistance Dashboard ($1.5M in DME, 100% of budget) and the ECA Program Management and Outreach System ($1.4M in DME, 11% of budget.)
  • USAID – Two programs with the largest DME budget are the Development Information Solution (DIS) portfolio management system ($8M in DME, 93% of budget) and the Steady State IT Infrastructure & Technology Modernization Program ($7.1M in DME, 12% of budget.)

After seeing its total IT budget remain flat at $1.4B from FY 2014 to FY 2015 the State Department IT budget for FY 2016 has jumped nearly $224M to over $1.6B. Similarly, USAID’s IT budget fell 4% from FY 2014 to FY 2015 but sees a $21.8M (+15%) jump in FY 2016 to regain ground. As noted above, overall DME spending at both State and USAID tend to run below those of most other federal agencies, so competition for O&M work on established programs may be fierce and challenging to penetrate. 

GAO Advocates More Analysis Prior to Pass-Through Contract Awards

A recently released study by GAO recommends that contracting officers perform more due diligence prior to awarding pass-through contracts, contracts where more than 70% of the total cost of the work to be performed is slated for subcontracts.

Congress is concerned that the government could be overpaying for contracts where work is predominately accomplished by lower-tier subs.  Section 802 of the FY 2013 NDAA calls for DOD, State and USAID contracting officers to conduct additional analysis before awarding pass-through contracts.  Additionally, GAO is tasked with evaluating progress in implementing the new guidelines.  

The new Section 802 requirements state that the contracting officer must do the following when evaluating the award of a pass-through contract:  

  • Consider the availability of alternative contract vehicles and the feasibility of contracting directly with a subcontractor or subcontractors that will perform the bulk of the work  
  • Make a writing determination that the contracting approach selected is in the best interest of the government  
  • Document the basis for such determination

GAO’s analysis of Section 802 implementation at DOD, State and USAID showed that USAID had issued directives and updated contracting checklists restating Section 802 requirements.  GAO’s research also showed that State issued a procurement bulletin restating Section 802 requirements, but neither agency has taken any further implementation action.  DOD is waiting for March 2015 FAR revisions before determining whether or not they need to take any action.

GAO recommends that all three agencies take the following actions:  

  • Issue guidance to help contracting officers perform the additional steps required by Section 802 
  • Revise management review processes and guidance to verify implementation or Section 802 requirements

Further implementation of Section 802 requirements will cause more scrutiny of pass-through contracts, jeopardizing awards to prime contractors who are not performing 30% or more of the total cost of work.  Primes should be diligent regarding their strategy and work breakdown when it comes to subcontracting and lower-tier contracting arrangements. 


Congress Passes FY 2015 Funding – Civilian Highlights, Part 1

The U.S. Congress passed an omnibus funding bill for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2015 that includes $1.1 trillion in total in discretionary federal funds, roughly half of which goes to federal civilian departments and agencies.

Federal News Radio reported that the Senate voted 56-40 late Saturday for the bill that will fund most agencies through September, the end of FY 2015. The House of Representatives had voted two days earlier on the spending measure, passing it 219-206.

The final bill removes concerns over the possibility of government shutdowns for the rest of the fiscal year and address funding for each of the agencies covered under the twelve individual appropriations bills that traditionally make their way through Congress. The only exception in full-year funding is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded by at continuing resolution (CR) levels through Feb. 27, 2015, due to congressional concerns over White House immigration plans. Future funding will be taken up by the next Congress.


Department Highlights


Department of Energy funding of $27.9B supports programs across the department’s five primary mission areas: science, energy, environment, nuclear non-proliferation, and national security.

  • National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA): Funding for NNSA sees an increase of $200M over FY 2014 levels to maintain the safety, security, and readiness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. This increase brings NNSA’s funding to $11.4B for FY 2015.
  • Funding includes $8.2B for weapons activities as well as $1.2B for naval reactors. Advanced simulation and computing efforts receive $598.0M, including $50.0M for activities related to the exascale initiative.
  • Energy Programs: Support for programs that encourage U.S. competitiveness drive an increase of $22M over FY 2014 enacted levels, bringing funding for Energy Programs at DOE to $10.2B.
  • Science Research: Funding for energy science research is maintained at FY 2014 levels, providing $5,071M to strengthen innovation and support basic energy research, development of high-performance computing systems, and exploration into next generation clean energy solutions.
  • Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): The advanced research organization ARPA-E receives $280.0M, $45M below the level requested for FY 2015.


Department of Commerce funding of $8.5B marks an increase of $286M above the level enacted for FY 2014.

  • Patent and Trademark Office (PTO): $3,458M for the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office, the full estimated amount of offsetting fee collection for FY 2015. The Patents and Trademark Office had nearly $651M in unobligated balances at the end of FY 2014.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): $675.5M for the scientific and technical core programs at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
    • This amount includes $15M for the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence and up to $60.7M for cybersecurity research and development.
    • National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education receives $4M. These funds also provide $16.5M for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which includes up to $6M for the lab-to-market program and up to $2M for urban dome programs.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): $5,441M for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This amount includes $3,333.4M for coastal, fisheries, marine, weather, satellite, and other programs.
  • Census Bureau: $1,088M for the Bureau of the Census, which includes $840M for periodic censuses and programs.
  • International Trade Administration: $472M in total program resources for the International Trade Administration. $10M of those funds are expected to be offset by fee collection, resulting in a direct appropriation of $462M.  Of those funds, up to $9M ins for the Interagency Trade and Enforcement Center, up to $10M is for SelectUSA, and Global Markets are funded at levels at least equal to FY 2014.

Go to Part 2 of Civilian Highlights, or check out our Defense Highlights of the FY 2015 Omnibus here.

Fellow GovWin Federal Industry Analysis (FIA) analysts Kyra Fussell, Angela Petty, and Alex Rossino contributed to this entry.

Federal Busy Season – Which Agencies are Ramping Up to Spend in September?

August is here and that puts us right at the mid-point of the fourth and final quarter of the fiscal year – the federal “busy season.” But that doesn’t mean that half of this business is already accounted for. In fact, historical spending trends suggest that things are just ramping up for its climax in September and several agencies will have billions of dollars to spend on IT before they face expiring funds.

Recently, I showed how federal agency spending trends in Q4 accounted for an average of 39% of agency contracted IT spending for the year, translating into an average of $30 billion in IT products and services contracted during the fourth quarter. Yet, the spending is even more concentrated than that. Upon further analysis, we can see that federal contract spending is disproportionately large in September, the final month of the fiscal year. Agencies obligate 18% of their total contract dollars across all goods and services and 23% of their yearly contracted information technology spending in September alone. That works out to nearly 60% of Q4 IT contract spending and means that about $17.3 billion in IT is likely to be contracted in the month of September.

Twenty five federal departments and agencies account for about 99% of this IT spending. So which of these biggest spending departments and agencies will have the largest percentage of their IT dollars likely to go out next month? See the chart below.

Twelve of the 25 highest spending departments – roughly half – will obligate 25% or more of their FY 2014 IT contract dollars in September, based on a 5-year average. State and AID will obligate more than a third!  The FY 2009-2013 average September contract spending for these 12 agencies is provided below.

Again, we are looking at an average of over $17 billion in IT spending at these agencies in September. Not all of these funds will necessarily expire at the end of the fiscal year, but the historical spending data averaged over the last five years still supports the trend that these agencies will spend at or near these levels, as it reflects some of the spending impacts of recent trends like shifting and tightening budgets, program delays, and sequestration.

Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

Federal Fourth Quarter FY 2014, Part 2 – $30B in IT Contracts Likely

The last two months of fiscal year (FY) 2014 are nearly upon us and that puts us on the cusp of the height of the 4th quarter (Q4) “federal IT busy season.” Even with several disruptions that have marked the first half of FY 2014, agencies do have budgets in place and are spending. If historical averages hold, several agencies will spend more than 50% of their FY 2014 contracted IT dollars in Q4.

Last week, I looked at potential total fourth quarter spending for the top 25 departments and agencies across all categories of contracted products and services, based on their reported historical contracted spending over the last several years. This week, I will focus on the Information Technology (IT) category in a similar fashion. (See last week’s entry for more detail on my approach.)

From FY 2009-2013 federal departments reported spending an average of 32% of their yearly contract dollars in the fourth quarter across all spending categories. However, the percentage of Q4 IT contract spending was 39% among the same departments for that period. Agencies tend to buy more of their IT in Q4 compared to other products and services, on average. Translating that into dollars, over the last five fiscal years federal agencies spent an average aggregate of nearly $30 billion on IT hardware, software, and services in Q4 alone. This is the case based on historical spending data, even in the era of sequestration and other budget constraints.

Which departments are the best targets for a firm’s Q4 IT capture efforts? Over the last five fiscal years the following 25 departments or agencies reported the largest overall contracted IT spending and make up 99% of the federal market. The chart below shows their average contracted IT spending in Q4 over the last five years.

Sixteen of the 25 top-spending departments will spend an average of 40% or more of their yearly contracted IT dollars in Q4 (and several more departments are not far behind in percentage points.) Those 16 departments account for an average of $20 billion in combined Q4 IT contracts from FY 2009-2013.

Three departments or agencies historically obligate more than half of their yearly IT contract dollars in the final fiscal quarter: AID (55%), State (56%) and HUD (70%).  Their 5-year average Q4 IT contracted spending is:

  • AID = $141.5 million
  • State = $690.5 million
  • HUD = $181.9 million

Not far behind, the departments that spend between 45% and 48% of their yearly IT contract dollars in Q4 – like HHS, DOJ, SSA, Energy, and DOI – tend to have even larger IT budgets. These five departments account for a combined average of $3.2 billion in Q4 IT contracts over the last 5 fiscal years.

Much of these contract dollars will flow to commodity IT products like software and peripherals, but significant dollars will also go toward IT services. Proposals that were submitted weeks or months ago may come back to the foreground for potential action and companies that can quickly turn around competitive quotes for their federal customers may have a chance at stealing business from incumbents. 

With FY 2014 getting a bit of a slow start due to delayed budgets and agency shutdowns, the rebounding we are seeing in the second half of the year may result in a record-breaking Q4. We will have to wait and see.

Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


Federal Fourth Quarter FY 2014 – Who’s Got the Money?

It’s that time of year again in the federal contracting world – the final quarter of the fiscal year, i.e. the Q4 “busy season.” After a rocky start to FY 2014, marked by budget impasses, shutdowns, continuing resolutions and sequestration, contracted spending appears to be catching up and may be on track for a record fourth quarter. Some federal departments will spend more than 40% of their contract dollars in the next few weeks.  

Due to the topsy-turvy environment over the last few years taking a bit of a historical perspective on spending may help to get a sense of what is likely in store for this Q4. According to their FPDS reported contracted spending over the last seven years, federal departments spent an average of 43.4% of their yearly discretionary budgets with contractors. Applying that percentage to the enacted FY 2014 discretionary budget of $1.127 trillion means over $489 billion in contract spending would be spent in all of FY 2014. Further, from FY 2009-2013 federal departments reported spending about 32% of their yearly contract dollars in the fourth quarter. That means more than $156 billion of FY 2014 contracted spending is likely to be obligated in the last 12 weeks of the fiscal year. Given a slow start in Q1, the actual Q4 amount could be billions higher as agencies work to catch up.

So which departments and agencies are most likely to have big money to spend between now and the end of September?  Looking at total contract obligations over the last five fiscal years, the following 25 departments reported the largest overall contracted spending and make up 99% of the market. The chart below shows their average contracted spending in Q4.

Eight of the largest departments on average spend at least 40% of their contract dollars in the last fiscal quarter and the State Department averages nearly 60%. In average dollar amounts, the Army, Navy, Air Force and DoD will have the most to obligate. From the civilian side HHS, VA, DHS, Energy, and State will be the biggest Q4 spenders.

Contractors need to be well-prepared to meet the needs of their federal customers to effectively and efficiently get these contract needs met by being highly responsive and by providing compelling proposals and bids. The dollars will flow, but where they go may be still up for grabs.


Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


IT Contracting Half-way Through FY 2014 – Civilian is Chugging, but Can DoD Catch Up?

A year ago at this time, if you will recall, we were watching and waiting to see if federal agencies would have FY 2013 appropriations made and budgets approved or whether they would face full-year continuing resolution-level spending and sequestration. What a difference a year makes, with FY 2014 budgets passed months ago. So how are agencies doing at getting their information technology (IT) contract dollars obligated at the mid-point and what might we expect in the second half of FY 2014? Let’s take a look.

Last week, I looked at the total market contract obligations at the mid-fiscal-year point. This week I’ll look specifically at IT obligations. In this, and other similar scenarios that I have explored, I took a rough “back of envelope” approach to projecting potential contract obligation rates for the remaining two fiscal quarters. For consistency, I will use the same baseline: If agencies obligate at least 90% of what they did in FY 2013, what might that project for spending on contracts in the second half of this fiscal year.

In the latest federal FY 2015 IT budget request, OMB reported the total enacted FY 2014 IT budget to be about $75 billion, which is $2.5 billion (3.5%) more than agencies spent in FY 2013.  So this 90% threshold that I am using for potential FY 2014 spending, while not a perfect comparison, might be conservative. We’ll just have to see.

Contract Obligations Compared

For IT, these twenty top-spending departments account for $16.2 billion in combined Q1 and Q2 obligations for FY 2014 so far, although DoD’s reporting lag will most certainly increase that amount. If they spend 90% of what they did in FY 2013 they will have $43.2 billion left to obligate in the remaining two quarters of this fiscal year. (See table below.) Under that assumption, the remaining federal departments and agencies would account for roughly $1.1 billion for Q3 and Q4, reaching the overall $44.4 billion mark for the second half of the year.


  • The civilian agencies in the top twenty have reported yearly obligations of $9.4 billion, $8.9 billion, and $9.5 billion for FY 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. So for FY 2014 these civilian departments are currently running on par with FY 2012.

  • The defense branches have reported yearly obligations of $18.4 billion, $16.2 billion and $6.7 billion for FY 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. Granted, the FY 2014 Q1-Q2 data is incomplete due to DoD’s reporting lag, which could take up to 90 days to settle out. So the question then is whether we will see another $10 billion in obligations post to the defense branches in the coming days to put them on par with last fiscal year or whether we will see the softening that’s apparent from FY 2012 to FY 2013.

  • Outside of DoD, there is not that much variance year-over-year. Most departments are within $100 million of what they spend in Q1-Q2 of last year. The SSA, USDA, and VA have posted increases of $200 million in obligations over this time in FY 2013.

What we may be seeing in the data so far – at least with the civilian organizations – is that they are enjoying the benefits of having budgets in place relatively early in the fiscal year, compared to dealing with CRs and late-breaking omnibus spending measures. There’s no surprise there. The real story in the data may be what is happening in the defense sector – that draw-downs, realignments, and program delays appear to be having noticeable impacts on their IT contracting run rates. Only time will tell if they will make up the difference in the second half of the year.

Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.