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Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 Launched a New Era in Government Contracting

On March 23, 2018 the Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump. This Act is an omnibus spending bill for the United States (US) federal government. The Defense Appropriations Bill, a subdivision of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, allocated $647 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD). The bill increased the budget of the DoD by an extraordinary $61 billion. Government Procurement was the category with the biggest increase, per President Trump’s request, and in terms of percentage, Government Procurement rose 23%. This represented the largest investment in US national defense in fifteen years. Specifically, several billion dollars have been allocated to address the challenges faced by the government regarding information technologies. Cybersecurity, shared services, agile development, cloud migration, data-center consolidation, big data, block chain and artificial intelligence are just some of the topics that emerged and require assistance. This increase in defense spending provided, and continues to provide, government contractors many new opportunities to propose innovative information technology (IT) products and services to the Federal Government.

A ‘Big Data Analytics Strategy’ was highlighted in the bill. Big data analytics examines large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns, correlations and other insights. Big data is growing significantly in the IT world and is recognized as an invaluable asset to the DoD. The Committee believes that modern technology tools gained through hyper-scale cloud computing like big data analytics, machine-learning technologies, and artificial software represent an unprecedented opportunity to leverage this data, stay ahead of opposers, and enable offensive and defensive capabilities for the US. This appreciation and interest in the advancement of information technologies provides exciting new competition in the government contracting world.

In addition to a focus on big data analytics, the bill provided $84.3 billion for the research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies. Initiatives within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, space security programs, the new Air Force bomber program and the Israeli Cooperative Programs.3 These new and diverse projects provided many opportunities for government contractors of varied backgrounds.

This Act not only has affected the areas of spending, but also who gets to participate. The Act called for more equitable distribution of the federal procurement funds. Those involved in drafting the Act were attentive to the need to maximize the participation of diverse companies. The federal government currently has a goal of awarding at least 3% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) certified companies. This positive attitude towards inclusion sheds hope on continual growth for smaller and middle-range government contracting firms.

The more recent 2019 Defense Budget shows strides toward growth in government procurement. The budget outlines several key efforts to improve DoD’s ability to acquire products and services in the most cost effective and efficient manner. The Department is acting on authorizations granted by Congress like “middle tier” acquisition and the use of Other Transaction Authorities. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 launched an environment for opportunity in the government contracting industry. With the focus growing on information technology and smarter acquisition of such goods and services, the future is bright in the government contracting industry.

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