The federal government is primed to spend as much as $300 billion in the final quarter of fiscal 2018 as agencies rush to obligate money appropriated by Congress before Sept. 30 or return it to the Treasury Department.
The spending spree is the product of the omnibus budget agreement signed six months late in March coupled with funding increases of $80 billion for defense and $63 billion for civilian agencies. The shortened time frame left procurement officials scrambling to find ways to spend the money.
Through August, defense and civilian agencies obligated some $300 billion in contracts. But to spend all the money appropriated to them by Congress, they may have to obligate well over $200 billion more in the final quarter of fiscal 2018, which ends in two weeks.
“It is not impossible for this to happen, but it is unprecedented for that high of a percentage to be obligated to contracts for a fiscal quarter,” David Berteau, president of the Professional Services Council, told Nextgov. “You’d have to spend almost 50 percent of the yearly total in three months.”
And yet the federal government may do just that. According to analysts at The Pulse, agencies have obligated $36 billion more toward contracts since July 1, based on data from the Federal Procurement Data System. FPDS data is imperfect and typically delayed—sometimes for weeks or months—but it does suggest significant spending nonetheless.
A Government Business Council survey conducted through Sept. 6 of more than 400 federal government decision-makers found that 52 percent were either “very confident” or “extremely confident” their agencies would spend the rest of their fiscal 2018 budget. The Government Business Council is the research arm of Government Executive Media Group, Nextgov’s parent company.
The Senate is racing to avoid the third government shutdown of the year ahead of a looming end-of-the-month deadline.