Biden administration’s climate science focus and what it means for the public sector

The Biden administration has placed a greater focus on the impact of climate change than any administration to come before it. From climate research projects at the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to new sustainability requirements in General Services Administration contracts, climate change’s impact on federal procurement has only been increasing.

For convenience, this article separates climate change’s impact on procurement into two categories: sales opportunities resulting from climate change-related initiatives and the...

READ MORE

The Biden administration has placed a greater focus on the impact of climate change than any administration to come before it. From climate research projects at the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to new sustainability requirements in General Services Administration contracts, climate change’s impact on federal procurement has only been increasing.

For convenience, this article separates climate change’s impact on procurement into two categories: sales opportunities resulting from climate change-related initiatives and the impact of federal sustainability goals in government contracting.

Climate change sales opportunity

Several government agencies have climate change-related programs creating opportunities to sell IT solutions, particularly data analytic software and cloud services. For instance, NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems program has been working to migrate its data systems to the cloud. NASA intends to use the cloud to store and process data produced by its Earth System Observatory (ESO), a group of five satellites which will collect data of interest to climate change research, creating additional opportunities for cloud services, data management and data analytic solutions in the future. Therefore, you will want to start formulating relationships with people at NASA overseeing the ESO now, so that you will be better positioned to sell your technologies to NASA as more pieces of the observatory come online.

Another agency with climate-related contracting opportunities is DOE. DOE conducts a lot of climate research and several national labs, such as Brookhaven National Lab and Pacific Northwest National Lab, have specific departments focused on climate change research. Furthermore, DOE recently established an Artificial Intelligence Advancement Council (AIAC) which will, among its other duties, assist in implementing climate change-related AI solutions. DOE announced $34.5 million in funding over three years in early 2021 for data science tools for research projects focusing on climate change and sustainability. The agency also announced $53 million in funding awards for small businesses pursuing solutions pertinent to the climate crisis, including an award to Charles River Analytics, Inc for a cybersecurity project in May 2022. Much of the DOE’s climate investments come in the form of research grants, many of which are accessible by national labs. You want to pursue research contract holders if you want to utilize these funds to sell data analytic or artificial intelligence solutions.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) recently released a report on climate planning which states “whether to expand federal collaborative mapping services by providing more operational capabilities – which could include software, services or tools – to member agencies and outside parties presents an important and timely question,” in its discussion of possible modifications to GeoPlatform, a service providing public access to geospatial data collected by federal agencies. Technology vendors and channel partners selling data solutions, especially geographic information system products, should start cultivating relationships with FGDC members should FGDC agencies decide to procure additional software to bolster GeoPlatform’s climate capabilities.

GSA’s Public Building Service has several in-development programs to implement smart building technologies with a focus on increasing sustainability. GSA’s Smart building efforts create opportunities for software and cloud-based solutions which can manage and control smart systems. Additionally, GSA has indicated that obtaining and making accessible real-time performance data about building systems is one of its main goals in implementing smart buildings, implying possible opportunities for data management solutions. GSA’s smart building efforts suggest future government contracts related to building management and construction will include opportunities for data analytic, artificial intelligence and cloud solutions. So if you sell products which can be incorporated into smart buildings, you should be on the look-out for future opportunities.

Climate change-related sales opportunities are not limited to civilian agencies. The Defense Department released a document in October 2021 in which DoD stated it will allocate funds to study the impact of climate change on defense missions. The DoD Climate Adaptation Plan, published in September 2021, also lists data analytics as a key enabler of DoD’s climate adaptation objectives and discusses including “climate-related metrics into enterprise-wide data analytics efforts.” Additionally, DoD’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 includes $3.1 billion for climate-related investments, some of which will go to climate modelling initiatives creating opportunities for data analytic and artificial intelligence solutions. If you offer such solutions, it will be worth your time to pursue climate-related opportunities with the DoD.

Climate change & federal procurement guidelines

Climate change’s impact on federal procurement goes far beyond creating potential contracting opportunities. Federal agencies are including sustainability guidelines in more contracts, making sustainability considerations increasingly important when selling IT solutions to the government. This is true even if you are not selling those solutions specifically for use in federal climate initiatives.

GSA, for instance, has recently added sustainability requirements to several current and upcoming contracts including the Ascent Blanket Purchase Agreement, Alliant 3 and the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contracts. Several new federal contracts, such as both the Polaris and Government Strategic Solutions for Desktops and Laptops contract, also include Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – an IT sector ecolabel – requirements. The Polaris contract requires all purchased products to have, at minimum, bronze-level EPEAT certification. Additionally, the agency is focusing more on procuring as-a-service solutions over government-owned hardware to better meet the Biden administration’s goal for the federal government to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In April of 2022, GSA announced plans to establish the GSA Acquisition Policy Federal Advisory Committee, an advisory committee focused on increasing sustainability within federal acquisitions.

Additional sustainability requirements may even find their way into the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council just finished accepting public comments for input on a potential amendment to FAR designed to reduce the federal government’s climate-impact in January of 2022 in response to Executive Order 14030, Climate Related Risk.

What does this all mean for you?

The federal government is creating both additional contract requirements and new sales opportunities in response to the climate crisis. Suffice to say, the government is aiming to be more climate conscious in its acquisition decisions. Therefore, it will pay off to consider sustainability when developing,  marketing and selling products to the federal market, whether selling those products for use in climate-related work or not.

Gabriel Zighelboim is a market insights data analyst for DLT.

Related Stories