Plenty of challenges are facing government contractors that are trying to advance or close business from now through April 2017. Most of the government, while open for business, is operating under temporary funding. Experienced officials, both political and career, are leaving government, as they either will no longer have a job, or they believe that the end of an eight-year administration is a natural time to depart. The transition to a new administration means that new people will be coming and, of course, that someone will have to bring them up to speed on what’s happening.
Despite all of these challenges, government contractors still have business to conduct. Here are some tips on how to get it done.
- Stay patient: Your federal customer may be distracted by having to brief incoming political people but, unless they’re retiring, they will still be around to pick up a discussion with you when they’re done. Make sure you keep in touch, without being overwhelming. Be ready to roll, too, when your customer is. Your customer still has needs to be met and, as long as the project isn’t a brand new start (excepting the VA or Congress that have their money), they have money to spend. Business will get done at federal agencies, but it may take a little longer than usual for the activity level to pick up.
- Be innovative: Most executive branch agencies can’t initiate a new project right now if they’re using appropriated funds. How can you help them to either classify your project as something that follows on, or is part of, an existing project? Think broadly here. Remember that cyber projects are multi-faceted, so any spending in this area might be more easily tied to something ongoing.
Ask your client about non-appropriated funds or “multi-year money,” too. While appropriated dollars may be a substantial funding source for IT and other projects, most agencies do have other types of money. This is especially true in the Department of Defense (DOD), where Congress has given many offices the flexibility to fund projects over time or use funds they accrue from other sources. Some of these funds may come with their own restrictions, such as the type of project on which they can be spent. Agencies can generally, however, use those funds now to start new projects provided the projects are appropriate to the type of money they have.
Get to know the Antideficiency Act, as well. This law prohibits federal agencies from committing funds they don’t currently have. Every federal customer, or at least Contracting Officer, we’ve seen absolutely abides by this rule. Consider breaking your proposal, then, into phases. If the client doesn’t have funds for anything more than “Phase I,” create a “Phase I” everyone can live with. You get to start the project now and have an easier time getting the next phases as the incumbent when funds are available.
- Keep Federal Business In Perspective: The federal government is not going away. It is open for business and business will be done. While there is the possibility that not much new business will be done this year outside of the VA and Congress, maintenance and upkeep must still happen. There will also be an FY’18. Early projections are that it could include new discretionary spending.
In the end, when, and if, all else fails it helps to have a sense of humor. Remember that this time will pass.