Budget agreement means a busier September

capitol dome money (Elena Yakusheva/Shutterstock.com)

The White House and congressional negotiators were reportedly working on a deal on July 22 that would back away from the Trump administration's demands for $150 million in cuts.

President Donald Trump tweeted later in the day that he and Congressional leaders had reached a deal "on a two-year budget and debt ceiling, with no poison pills." However, experts say it could have a complex effect on the traditionally busy fall buying season for federal agencies.

The Washington Post reported that the White House and Congress were negotiating a budget that would offer a bit of stability by raising the government's debt ceiling, setting new spending levels for two years and ending the automatic cuts required under the 2011 sequestration law. The government faces another shutdown on Sept. 30 if Congress doesn't pass a budget bill by then.

As negotiations continue, experts told FCW that many agencies are likely concerned about how much money they will receive and whether the entire deal could fall apart.

Agencies should breathe a sigh of relief" because negotiations are underway, said Mike Hettinger, president and founding principal of Hettinger Strategy Group. But he added that even if an agreement is reached, "a shutdown is not off the table. It all boils down to one guy" -- President Donald Trump, who has final approval and has shown he's not shy about scotching deals.

David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, said IT spending will be complicated, with the Defense Department faring better than civilian agencies on actual appropriations. However, he added that if the past four budget deals are any indication, appropriations under any agreement reached in the next few days won't be determined until well into fiscal 2020.

That could result in a fairly strong IT buying period in September as agencies push to spend their fiscal 2019 money, but "October, November and even December will be slow," he said.

Berteau added that the current budget talks depend on four sets of actors, House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and White House officials. "There is uncertainty at all of those levels" about a firm budget deal, he said.

Procurement expert Larry Allen, founder of Allen Federal Business Partners, said the 35-day government shutdown that ended earlier this year is still having an impact on large civilian agencies' acquisition efforts. "September is always busy," he said, "but this year there will be pockets of abnormal activity" as agencies try to catch up on IT and other acquisitions.

For large agencies that have multiple key vacancies or leaders serving in acting capacities, "innovation will take a back seat to just getting the job done," Allen said, as has been the case with the continuing resolutions that have been common in recent years.

Editor's note: This story was updated July 22 with reference to the president's tweet. 

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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