Agencies are just about three weeks into the federal fourth quarter procurement spending spree and, like the weather, the buying is heating up. Contractors know taking vacations in August and September are all but verboten because of the wave of solicitations coming out.
Bloomberg Government says on average the government spends about 32 percent of their contracting budget during July, August and September.
The Defense Department, which usually leads the way when it comes to year-end spending, is trying to improve the process on both ends of the equation.
Ken Brennan, the deputy director for services acquisition in the Office of Defense Procurement and
Acquisition Policy in DoD, said the Pentagon is rolling out a new forecasting tool to better describe what it’s buying and who is buying it.
“We shared it with the broader community, but it’s not significantly robust yet. We need to know what folks are looking to buy so we can identify them and connect them to a solution that meets their requirements,” Brennan said at an event hosted by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) in Vienna, Va. on July 20. “We believe this holds great promise for us. We have a long way to go and a lot of things that happen in the fourth quarter are discretionary so we are really trying to see how we keep that appetite in check.”
DoD is building the forecasting tool based on work done in the small business arena to leverage the software they are using.
Brennan said the military tested the broader tool a few weeks ago and it’s moved out of the beta stage.
“There are opportunities for DoD to connect like consumers and maybe through category management consolidate buying,” he said. “We are concerned and aware of bundling. For vendors, it will tell them what requirements are available, what quarter the solicitation will come out and there will be some scope size in there, probably a range of potential price of the effort.”
He said DoD likely will make the forecasting tool public in the coming months.
In addition to DoD’s own forecasting tool, Brennan said the Pentagon also plans on using the General Service Administration’s Acquisition Gateway hallways during the fourth quarter to spend more efficiently.
“Our obligations due to the vagaries that were put into place regarding appropriate management of appropriated dollars results in a lot of spend in September. A lot of that is to obligate the money first and foremost, and if we get some benefit out of it, all the much the better,” he said. “By using the hallways and by making these things available to people who have the requirement to help them understand they can solve two of their problems instead of one, the obligation of money, they get the capability they really need at an effective price.”
Brennan said because money many times is “time discretionary”—meaning it will expire if not used—the better coordinated buying will meet DoD’s needs more effectively.
The Acquisition Hallways also have a forecasting tool for vendors.
Laura Stanton, the assistant commissioner in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Strategy Management, said her office is pulling data from several Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Utilization (OSDBU), including GSA and the State Department, and putting it into a searchable format.
Stanton said this new tool came online in mid-June and is available on the public portion of the gateway.
“That is one of the areas where we are beginning to make those opportunities more visible through the tool,” she said. “This is not the contract opportunity or the request for quotes or request for proposals, this is beginning to lay out what we anticipate.”
The fourth quarter will be a good test to judge the value of the Acquisition Gateway, which Stanton said is getting more popular.
She said there are almost 9,000 government users, more 11,000 users coming through the public portal and 120 publicly visible contracts that were awarded and are considered best practice contracts.
She said about 50 percent of the government users are not from GSA.
“This gives the insight and begins to connect instead of relying on a personal network to understand what’s happening,” Stanton said. “When I have a requirement as a program lead, my first step was to always to figure out who had bought this before and who could I call to get them to send me their statement of work. It’s not perhaps the best way to get to the best practices.”