Evan Vucci / AP

Contracting Community Welcomes Biden’s Budget Proposal

Groups see opportunities with the administration's cybersecurity, climate change and workforce innovation priorities.

The federal contracting community is generally pleased with President Biden’s $6 trillion budget request for fiscal 2022 released last Friday, as it sees opportunities with the administration's cybersecurity, climate change and workforce innovation priorities.

Biden is proposing a 16% increase in non-defense discretionary spending from fiscal 2021 ($769 billion) and a 1.7% increase for defense spending ($753 billion). The president’s detailed budget request, sent to Congress late last week, outlines how the administration is “recommitting to good government” and re-empowering the federal workforce to deliver for the American people. 

The Professional Services Council, a trade association that represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, “is pleased to see significant investments in infrastructure, IT modernization, climate, total workforce innovation and public health,” said David Broome, executive vice president for government relations, in a statement. “PSC calls on civilian agencies to fully obligate the funds appropriated to them to address our nation’s pressing challenges.” The trade association is continuing to review the proposal and “will work with Congress on the priorities important to our member companies and their government customers,” Broome stated.

He pointed out the $2.1 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, an increase of $110 million from the enacted fiscal 2021 level (in addition to the approximately $650 million it received from the American Rescue Plan) and the $112 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation at the Defense Department, a more than 5% increase. 

“The budget request specifically references leveraging federal contractors to help implement critical programs and meet mission needs,” said PSC’s statement. “Federal contractors will be valuable partners in providing both scale and innovation to the government.” 

Other priorities in the proposal impacting federal contractors and procurement are: using federal procurement to advance racial equity, prioritizing American manufacturing using the government’s purchasing power, supporting the transition to clean energy through contracting, and creating a “modern and diverse federal acquisition system.” The detailed request builds on the initiatives introduced in the budget preview released in April. 

The proposal also notes that Biden signed an executive order in April requiring a $15 minimum wage for workers on federal contracts starting next year. 

Roger Waldron, president for the Coalition for Government Procurement, also applauded the proposal. 

“The budget recognizes the need for resources to lead in countering threats from near-peer adversaries,” he told Government Executive. “It dedicates funds to support agency technology modernization, cybersecurity and an assessment of the SolarWinds incident. These funds build on what has been provided in response to the pandemic, and they will help to bolster cyber defenses. They also will promote the digitalization needed to support cross-agency collaboration and improve service delivery to citizens.”

Alan Balutis, who has held many senior roles in the federal government, academia, nonprofits and the private sector, wrote in Meritalk on Friday the president’s goal to create a “modern and diverse federal acquisition system” comes after the “almost 200 studies and procurement reform commissions that have been conducted over the last 30-plus years to do this very thing.” 

The budget proposal is largely symbolic as the final version of the budget is expected to undergo changes as Congress takes it up. The appropriations process will determine the actual agency-by-agency spending levels. However, with Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, lawmakers are more likely to adhere to the president’s priorities.

Balutis also pointed out that many key management roles in the Biden administration (whose portfolios touch contracting and procurement) still lack permanent leadership and/or nominees and appointees. This includes the Office of Management and Budget director and chief financial officer, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs head, Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator and General Services Administration administrator. 

“At the current pace, we may be well into the fall before we have the complete array of management leaders installed across the full government,” he said.