Businesses: look for opportunities as federal fiscal year winds down
Congress’ last-minute work on the budget will have an impact on procurement as the end of the 2011 federal fiscal year approaches on Sept. 30, says Lourdes Martin-Rosa, an advisor on government contracting at New York-based American Express OPEN. Due to the late passage of the fiscal 2011 budget, the race to exhaust the remaining funds — estimated at $120 billion — is fiercer this fourth quarter than last year’s.
“With Congress holding up funding until April 2011, the Continuing Resolution debate will definitely increase fourth quarter spending,” Martin-Rosa told Govpro.com. “Most of the contract dollars are now flowing down to the agencies, and they are definitely motivated to spend the money before it’s taken away.”
During the hectic final days of FY 2011, federal buyers will accelerate their purchases off the GSA Schedule, which has long-term government-wide contracts with vendors covering more than 11 million products and services.
“GSA Schedule vendors stand out this quarter,” says Martin-Rosa. “The use of GSA Schedules for acquisitions becomes especially attractive to agencies during the fourth quarter given their presumption of competition, the thoroughness of vendor vetting, their ease of use and expedited processes. In fact, the amount expected to be spent through GSA Schedules will be much higher in Q4 than Q3. The reason for the spike in sales is simple: federal agencies need to spend the rest of their budgets in order to avoid risking the loss of existing funds or the future downsizing of their budgets.”
Businesses, both large and small, says Martin-Rosa, should take the steps to become approved vendors on the GSA Schedule, which can lead to increased visibility and credibility for a company. This web resource, titled “GSA Schedule: A Tool to Help Win Government Contracts,” is a starting point.
Small businesses that are not on the GSA Schedule and/or not certified should team up with businesses that are on the GSA Schedule and/or certified. Businesses can find a teaming partner within their area by using the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Dynamic Small Business Search or by visiting the TeamingUSA.com site.
An educated contractor is a successful contractor, says Martin-Rosa. “Now, more than ever, small businesses need to review fourth quarter expenditures on each of their targeted agency’s procurement forecast by visiting
Acquisition Central. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development updates their procurement forecast every month. The upcoming contracts are mostly funded and accessible.”
Small businesses should also search on the FedBizOpps site for “sources sought” notices, which are synopses posted by government agencies that state they are seeking potential vendor sources for a project. The notices apply to businesses that qualify under Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act, women-owned small businesses, service-disabled military veteran-owned small businesses, businesses in HUBZones and other categories, says Martin-Rosa. “Although they are not solicitations for work or even requests for a proposal, ‘sources sought’ notices present a great opportunity for small businesses to call a contracting officer and introduce their capabilities.”
Even if business owners are pressed for time, it is critical that they do their homework before any communications or solicitations go out to federal agencies, says Martin-Rosa. “They should leverage available resources and contacts to find information that will save time and money.” One potential source, she suggests, is the
American Express OPEN Forum site that covers government contracting.