Contractors warn against another shutdown

Industry group says uncertainty could drive some firms out of the federal space entirely.

government industry dialog
Tech suppliers and contractors are pushing Congress to resolve the next budget impasse in the few weeks left before Thanksgiving rather than risk another government shutdown in January that could drive some out of the federal space.

Government procurement personnel are still settling back into their routines in their first full week back after the shutdown, said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of the global public sector at TechAmerica. "They're looking to understand where contracts are" post-shutdown, he said, "and getting the lay of the land."

NASA's Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) V, the General Services Administration's One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) and the Department of Homeland Security's Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (EAGLE) II all skipped deadlines or were otherwise delayed by the shutdown. Proposals for the $60 billion OASIS multiple-award contracts are now officially due the day before Halloween. The awards under the EAGLE contract began in earnest this year, and more than 50 have been made. However, Erica McCann, TechAmerica's manager of procurement policy, said that because of the shutdown, DHS had to delay debriefings to vendors who weren't awarded contracts.

Proposals from vendors who wanted to be part of SEWP V had been due Oct. 14. On Oct. 2, NASA put the deadline on hold and gave no firm alternative date. SEWP V is valued at $20 billion.

Those delays and missed deadlines can be reworked, Hodgkins said, but the next looming budget deadline in January leaves a short window of opportunity for lawmakers and the president to work out their differences.

"We don't want another [continuing resolution]," he said, adding that "there's a five-week window" to get some kind of consensus on the budget, as well as authorization bills for the Defense Department and DHS.

More uncertainty could hasten the flow of experienced contracting personnel from the private sector and government into other lines of work. McCann noted that some highly skilled tech workers, particularly cybersecurity professionals, are finding jobs in the financial sector.

"The uncertainty is pushing them out the door," Hodgkins said. Some companies have moved workers from less lucrative positions on federal contracts to private-sector contracts that can bring in double the money. "Where they have been bringing in $100 an hour on government contracts, they may have been bringing in $250 an hour working on the commercial side," he said. "Why shift them back?"

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