Tag Archives: USA Spends

The Government’s Historic Spending Spree Continues



“Driven largely by the Defense Department, the federal government’s discretionary spending spiked to a seven-year high in fiscal 2018, with agencies obligating more than $554 billion for products and services, up $100 billion from 2015.”


“According to official spending data from the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department accounted for $358 billion in contract obligations while civilian agencies, like the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security departments, obligated $195 billion.

Source: GAO analysis of Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation

The government closed the 2018 fiscal year on a massive spending spree—due in part to funding increases after a delayed budget agreement—and early fiscal 2019 spending data indicates the government isn’t slowing down its contract spending.

Spending data tabulated by the Professional Services Council illustrates the spending uptick.

During the largest fourth-quarter spending in recent memory, Defense and civilian agencies raced to spend almost $190 billion. Early receipts show the high-paced spending continued into fiscal 2019, especially at the Defense Department. Defense agencies obligated $111 billion in October, November and December—a 32% increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2018.

Source: Bloomberg Government

That’s a historic level of early spending for the Defense Department, according to David Berteau, president of the Professional Services Council. Over the previous five years, the Defense Department has spent in the $60 to $70 billion range over those same Q1 months, cautiously allocating money during sometimes tense budget negotiations in Congress. Fully appropriated this year with large acquisitions like ships and aircraft on the books, Berteau said the Defense Department hasn’t had to be as cautious.  

“The Defense Department obligated almost as many contract dollars in the first quarter of fiscal 2019 as in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018,” Berteau told Nextgov. “Never in 40 years of following this—I’ve never seen a first quarter in Defense spending that looked like a fourth quarter.”

Civilian spending is up—though to a lesser degree—despite a 35-day government shutdownbeginning the year. Through the first two quarters of fiscal 2019, civilian agencies have allocated about $78 billion, up from $67 billion at the same time last year.

Source: Bloomberg Government

It is unclear whether the government’s current spending trends will continue through fiscal 2019, as the government’s reported spend data lags behind by three to six months. In June, White House officials said they had “every intention” of avoiding a shutdown similar to the one that shuttered several agencies in December, floating a one-year stopgap measure to keep agencies next year at fiscal 2019 levels. However, Berteau said 2018’s uptick in contract spending “is fully expected” given the stable more stable fiscal conditions with which the fiscal year began. Berteau added that contract spending is not increasing at the same pace as overall government spending, so contractors aren’t getting “more than their fair share, but actually less.” 

“The reality is the growth we’re seeing in contracts in fiscal 2018 is fully expected, exactly in line with what Congress appropriated and President Trump signed,” Berteau said. 

Where did the money go?

According to the analysts at The Pulse of GovCon, the civilian agencies with the largest contract spend last year were the departments of Energy ($32 billion), Veterans Affairs ($31 billion), Health and Human Services ($25 billion), Homeland Security ($18 billion) and NASA ($18 billion).

Agencies across government spent approximately $225 billion on products—including pens, paper and hand grenades—and $340 billion on services, including research and development. 

The government’s top contractor, Lockheed Martin, captured $40 billion in revenue over fiscal 2018. Collectively, the government’s top ten contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, McKesson Corporation, Huntington Ingalls Industries, BAE Systems, Leidos and United Technologies Corporation—captured almost 30% of Defense obligations and 17% of civilian obligations. 

Small businesses, according to The Pulse of GovCon, received about 22.5% of the government’s total contract dollars.”


A New Era In Accessing Federal Spending Data


Federal spending contractingacademy.gatech.edu

Image: contractingacademy.gatech.edu

“Businesses across all sectors can use federal spending data to identify sources of government funding for job training, technology modernization, and other business-relevant concerns.

Current and potential government contractors can also use data on government procurement to identify trends and opportunities across different federal programs.”

“In 2017, the U.S. government spent $3.98 trillion, representing nearly 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) was passed into law in 2014 to provide detailed information on how those federal dollars are allocated each year through contracts, grants, loans, and other financial assistance awards. Under the DATA Act, federal agencies are required to report this information every quarter in a standardized way, using the DATA Act Information Model Schema (DAIMS), and publish this data on USAspending.gov.

For more than three years, the Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been working to implement the DATA Act and make large amounts of new data available and useful to the public. Their efforts are now coming to fruition. Agencies have been submitting data to Treasury using the DAIMS since last May, and there is now enough data available to begin the new kinds of analyses that the DATA Act makes possible.

The Department of the Treasury, which manages USAspending.gov, is also planning to relaunch the federal spending website in the coming months with new features, functionality, and much more data than before. A preview is currently available at beta.USAspending.gov. Among the updates, Treasury has developed the Federal Spending Explorer, which breaks down spending information by budget function, agency, and object class; Award Search, which includes a wide range of advanced filters to target specific datasets; and Keyword Search, which provides a broader picture of federal spending data based on any given theme. Treasury has also launched the Data Lab to test out new visualizations for data on federal spending and related issues, including a recently published analysis of federal spending related to homelessness.

On February 7, the Department of the Treasury and the nonprofit Center for Open Data Enterprise co-hosted a Roundtable on Innovating with Federal Spending Data to advance these efforts. The Roundtable convened a wide range of stakeholders from inside and outside of government to “identify new applications of federal spending data and develop recommendations for increasing its use and impact.” The event was held under the Chatham House Rule, which allows content from the Roundtable to be shared without direct attribution to individual participants. Today the Center has published a report on key takeaways from the Roundtable, which is available here.

The Roundtable included presentations to give participants an overview of the federal spending data now available and invite their ideas on how it can be used. Leadership from Treasury and OMB described their current plans for DATA Act implementation, including David Lebryk, Treasury’s Fiscal Assistant Secretary; Amy Edwards, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy and Financial Transparency; and Victoria Collin, who is Acting Chief of the Management Controls and Assistance Branch at OMB’s Office of Federal Financial Management. Other presentations explored ways that different users could apply the new data and features – from a small business owner interested in competing for federal contracts in plumbing, heating, and air conditioning services to a journalist working to track federal funds directed towards Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

“This is an exciting time for anyone who wants to understand more about the federal government and a significant portion of our economy,” said Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President Bryce Pippert, who participated in the Roundtable. “These new federal spending data resources will empower citizens, journalists, policymakers, and government leaders to quickly answer questions about where federal dollars go. And this spending data can now be easily combined with other programmatic and demographic information for analysis to answer questions about the impact and effectiveness of resource allocation.”

To help participants focus on data applications most relevant to their work, the  Roundtable also included breakout sessions organized around five topic areas where federal spending data can be particularly valuable. The participants in these sessions identified current and potential uses of federal spending data in these areas, including:

 Improving Government Operations and Evidence-Based Policymaking.Federal agencies can use information published under the DATA Act to improve internal government operations. For example, agencies can analyze federal spending on procurement across the U.S. government to reduce duplication and identify opportunities for shared services. Agencies can also use this data to identify cross-government resources that could be deployed to address time-sensitive funding needs or government-wide emergencies, such as the opioid epidemic or major natural disasters.

Creating Opportunities for Federal Grant Recipients. Federal grant applicants and recipients can use federal spending data to better understand agencies’ funding priorities and improve their application outcomes. Agencies can also evaluate the success of their grants through new analyses of the distribution and impact of grants by specific regions, demographic groups, or issue areas.

Increasing Transparency and Accountability. Detailed information on federal spending can support Congressional oversight and provide budget transparency for taxpayers, including giving Congress and the public additional information to evaluate emergency supplemental requests for funding.

“We are starting to see the enormous benefits that can be gained from mining the rich array of data now available in USAspending.gov,” said Roundtable participant Kathy Conrad, Director of Digital Government at Accenture Federal Services. “By applying advanced analytics to this valuable data, including using descriptive and predictive data mining and machine learning, governments, businesses, academics and other stakeholders can gain insights that help answer complex questions and improve services for our citizens and consumers.”

The Roundtable on Innovating with Federal Spending Data represents an important step towards showing the full potential of this newly available data, convening user communities to explore updates to USAspending.gov, and thinking critically about how this information can be applied in different ways. Through efforts like these, Treasury can ensure that federal spending data is recognized as a critical government data resource like Census data or geospatial data, and that it will be widely used in ways that will have a major positive impact.”