Hang on—it is going to be a fast-paced fourth quarter as the federal fiscal year 2014 draws to a close on Sept. 30. The end of the federal fiscal year can be as exhilarating and fast, with lots of zig and zags, as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland.

End-of-fiscal-year spend can be exciting or stressful, depending on how prepared you are as a federal buyer. As a former federal buyer myself, I learned that starting at the beginning of the fiscal year, on Oct. 1, it is wise to have a “wish list” drawer. This is not only for your unit or section, but also for subordinate requests in their order of importance. Don’t just have the request form; make others do the homework for you in terms of vendor names, specifications, pictures etc. This way, if you need to make something happen quickly, you have the information that you need to buy now.

Some agencies prefer to use GSA Schedules and buy through eBuy, as it streamlines the procurement process. Through eBuy, vendors are pre-qualified and meet certain requirements, which makes it easy. What can take 45 days or more through open market can occur in a few days through the GSA eBuy system. Using the system was a no-brainer for me. Additionally, once you know your budget for the year, you should forecast out based on mission-critical needs, sustainment and then nice-to-haves. Once you have purchased your must-haves, then pick away at the other items. If you need more funds, ask early and be prepared to justify your request for more funds.

In broad terms, federal agencies across the board are expected to spend the most on Architectural, Engineering and Construction (AEC) followed by “All Other” and Information Technology Software, Technical and Professional Services, according to Deltek’s 2014 estimates. The fourth quarter (Q4) of federal FY2014 is expected to be record-breaking, due to various factors such as sequestration in FY13 and budget impasses in the first quarter of federal FY2014. Federal solicitation activity is up 57 percent this year vs. FY2013. To highlight the significance of fourth-quarter spend, from Q1 to Q4, on average, we should see an increase of over 18 percent—the largest percentage jump in over 10 years. Small business percent of contract spend will edge out large by an expected 11 percent.

Erica Courtney was a former scout pilot in the U.S. Army, and served in senior staff positions in charge of $750 million in equipment, and budgets that often exceeded $100 million. She also was in charge of 2,500 people in the most deployable units in the armed services in peacetime and in war.

Courtney was heavily involved in procurement and purchasing. “I was a Brigade S4, which means that I had to procure anything and everything for my 2,500-person unit for deployments, redeployment and sustaining the force. I dealt with the vendors and contracting officers. I would buy everything from barbecue equipment to aircraft armor. I had the largest budget of any Army unit as aviation is so expensive.”

Courtney has also worked as a corporate executive and founded a consultancy focused on government business development. She now is CEO of 2020vet, which offers fully integrated supply chain, logistics and marketing management. The firm also offers subject-matter expertise in various engineering and scientific disciplines with a veteran-heavy workforce.

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