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Nick Wakeman

Is there any value in Trump's fiscal 2020 budget?

As a I plow through President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, I hear the voice of a long ago boss telling me that 90 percent of what happens on Capitol Hill is B.S. And it is easy to lump the president’s budget in that category.

Increasingly, presidential budget proposals are dead on arrival. This one is no different but is there anything of value in it?

As has been widely reported, President Trump's budget proposal will never even see a hearing in Congress, much less an actual vote. It is purely a political statement.

And there are no surprises in this budget when you look at some of the topline numbers like $8.6 billion for the wall: $5 billion in the Homeland Security Department’s budget and $3.6 billion in the Defense Department’s budget.

Overall, DOD’s budget grows by 5 percent to $718 billion; Veterans Affairs sees a 7.5-percent increase to $93.1 billion; and DHS gets a 7.8-percent increase to $87.1 billion. Even the Small Business Administration gets a 17 percent increase for an annual budget $820 million.

Elsewhere there are cuts and more cuts:

  • Environmental Protection Administration, 31 percent down to $6.1 billion.
  • Transportation Department, 22 percent down to $21.4 billion.
  • State Department, 23 percent down down $40 billion
  • Health and Human Services, 12 percent down to $81.7 billion.

The cuts go on and on across the civilian market.

But few expect any of these severe cuts to go through, and about the only budget increases that we should see implemented are at DOD and the VA.

But as a political document the budget proposal is an important window into Trump’s vision for the government.

Throughout the document there are references to modernization of systems and improving procurement. The administration will be pushing ahead with more initiatives such as shared services

One example of that is NewPay, a GSA program to sell payroll services to government agencies. The budget calls for Agriculture, Interior and GSA to move to NewPay. Carahsoft and Grant Thornton are competing for task orders under the $2.5 billion blanket purchase agreement for NewPay.

The budget also calls for an Acquisition Modernization Plan for continuous process improvement of the acquisition process. The White House is asking for funds to conduced pilots to test concepts that promise to improve “value and efficiency.”

IT modernization also gets a high profile with the administration asking for $150 million for the Modernizing Government Technology fund, up from the $90 million used to fund seven projects in fiscal 2018.

The budget also authorizes agencies to create their own IT modernization funds through a working capital funds. The administration wants agencies to have more flexibility in how they move and manage the funds.

Category management also gets a shout out as a tool for finding savings. And DOD's growing budget would also include $286 million in funding “to ensure a robust, resilient, secure, and ready manufacturing and defense industrial base."

So there are a lot of good ideas in this budget that could help contractors, but it is hard to get past the actual numbers proposed. The risk is that the things both sides of the aisle might agree on will get lost.

Those opposed to President Trump’s agenda are only seeing red right now.

More details and analysis will come out in the coming days, but given how far apart the two parties are, we are really only seeing shadows of what will eventually pass. The substance has yet to emerge.

And of course, there is the danger that no budget agreement will be reached. That means the Budget Control Act and its sequestration cuts will roar back to life as many GovCon industry CEOs have warned.

That is something that won’t serve anyone very well, but it is never too early to start planning for it.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 11, 2019 at 1:30 PM


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