FY16 Budget Forecast

US Flag, Capitol Building and MoneyThe Senate and the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) today, which the President can sign by midnight to fund government at FY15 levels through December 11.  What happens after the December 11 deadline is up in the air, but we’ll either see more CRs for the rest of the year, or an omnibus (like what we had in FY15).

First, let’s cover some budget scenarios:

  • Full Budget
    12 appropriations bills passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President by October 1 appropriating funds to each of the government agencies. These appropriations bills combine for over 20,000 pages of text and provide significant clarity from Congress on how money should be spentThis hasn’t happened since 2008.
  • Omnibus
     Twelve appropriations bills are consolidated into 1.  Agencies do receive new funding levels for the year and new programs can start, but the bill is significantly shorter (roughly 2,000 pages, compared to the 20,000 pages of the full budget) and lacks the direction from Congress on how the money should be spent.  FY15 ended on an omnibus.
  • CROmnibus
    A combination of a CR and an omnibus – funding some agencies at new levels for the fiscal year, while other agencies are dependent upon prior year spending levels.
  • Continuing Resolution (CR)
    Appropriations bills were not passed and new budget levels cannot be agreed upon in Congress.  A CR is a stopgap measure allowing the government to remain open and funded, but at the prior year’s spending levels, and no new programs can be started.
  • Shutdown
    Congress can’t agree on any aspect of funding, and all non-essential governmental functions are suspended until a budget can be reached.

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3 Questions Every COTS Vendor Should Ask in Preparation for FY16

End of FY15_CWChris Wiedemann_65 x 85by Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

It’s the last couple days of the 2015 government fiscal year, which to most of us means only one thing: closing year-end business. Selling COTS products to the government can get pretty hectic around this time of year, so you’d be forgiven for overlooking a salient and somewhat worrying fact: we still have no agency funding for FY16.

With exactly 2 days left of FY15 (and counting) the only existing Continuing Resolution (CR) flat lined in the Senate, although Congress does appear poised to pass a clean CR which has a good chance of making it to the President’s desk. Still, they are dealing with a very tight deadline and we might be in for another brief government shutdown before Congress can put a short-term CR in place.

The good news is, we’ve been here before. The beginning of FY14 became famous for its 16-day government shutdown. While it was painful for both the government and its industry partners, COTS manufacturers made a rebound, showing strong results at the end of the fiscal year. In the event of another shutdown, the best advice we can give to the COTS community is “hold tight.” While having most of your customers furloughed to begin a fiscal year isn’t ideal — and the impacts of a shutdown on the larger economy are significant COTS vendors will likely emerge more or less unscathed. All that being said, there are still important questions that need to be answered and issues that need to be addressed as we enter FY16’s uncertain beginning. Read more of this post

Five Tips for a Successful Selling Season

Sales FunnelSteve Headshot 65 x 85 by Steve Charles, Co-founder

Every year around this time I’m approached by technology companies looking for quick tips on how to make their September successful. I start off by saying that in a typical government fiscal year, we see the feds spending about a third of their budgets in the last quarter. However, the steps for completing the acquisition packages began six to nine months ago. 

As we wind down to the last week or two of the year, program managers pick and choose purchase requests like puzzle pieces to get to zero by midnight, September 30.  So, to make sure you’re in the mix at the 11th hour, make sure to ask your government customer one critical question: is the right amount of money in the right account?

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Sequestration. It’s Here, So Now What?

photo_Steve-Charles_65x85by Steve Charles, Co-founder and Executive Vice President

Like so many of our clients and partners, I’m scanning the news almost hourly to see what will happen with sequestration. As I’ve advised earlier, it’s important to filter out the politics ⎯ admittedly that are getting more heated and unreal-sounding ⎯ from the underlying reality.

That reality centers on two points worth repeating.

First, the math. For the civilian side of the government, cuts of $42.5 billion represent 6 percent or so of overall spending, but the effect is magnified by the fact that the fiscal year is nearly half over. The cuts aren’t horrible, but they are real. On the Defense side, it’s more like 9 percent, and this on top of budget limitations worth hundreds of billions over 10 years agreed to last year.

Remember, Sequestration is a “hold-back” of a specified percentage on all accounts of a similar type. For instance, the hold-back percentage on Discretionary accounts is higher than Mandatory accounts, and some accounts are exempt. But all “sequesterable” accounts of the same type have the same hold-back percentage applied, so an agency can’t completely cut a program, rather, all programs, theoretically, are subject to equal pain and suffering. The Sequester Order expected March 1 should include all these details.

This requires a careful, tactical approach by your sales teams to focus on the real opportunities, analyzing each by understanding which budget line item is potentially funding each individual opportunity. February 27 guidance to agencies from Comptroller’s office (M-13-05) emphasizes use of furloughs, hiring freezes, travel bans and so on to meet the hold-back percentages on sequesterable accounts without damaging mission performance. The memo does not mention freezing planned expenditures on technology purchases.

So opportunities to continually improve government performance and cybersecurity are still out there. Understandably, program managers are being very careful about allocating funds until there is more certainty that the fund-certifying official can sign off on the disbursement–all of which must happen before Contracts can work on the procurement.

Second, go back and review those areas most likely to keep going during the sequester. These are spelled out in guidance from the Congressional Research Service issued in January. It’s called Budget Sequestration and Selected Exemptions and Special Rules. Note that word: exemptions.

Among the areas the White House has the discretion to exempt:

  • Military payroll accounts for uniformed members, which of course pulls along all of the support products and services related to troops.
  • Veterans medical benefits, which also pull through supplies and services.

These two have already been “rescued” by the administration. Other possible exemptions that relate to the sales of products and services:

  • Unobligated balances carried over from prior years from nondefense programs.
  • A dozen direct benefits programs. Normally the administrative expenses related to these programs would be subject to sequester. But here’s a crucial point. CRS reports that OMB has decided that discretionary administrative expenses for exempt programs would not be sequestered. The reasoning is convoluted, but that exemption from the sequester could be your ticket to continued sales.

Bottom line? It’s no longer enough to ask whether the customer has money. Now we need to get into the details at the budget line item level and find out how sequestration applies to that account. This is a big job. There are many thousands of accounts.

And don’t forget, there’s a continuing resolution behind the sequester. It expires March 27. So far no plan has emerged from Congress on how to avoid a government shutdown. In their caution, your customers are thinking about how to avoid stumbling into an Antideficiency Act violation. Will the CR simply be extended, or will Congress us it kill some programs and plus-up others? Anything could happen as Congress and the President wrangle over finalizing the way the amounts cut by the sequester actually happen over the longer term.

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