Will the Impeachment Wreck the Federal Procurement Process?
Russell Smith | October 10, 2019
After several months of fast RFP releases, federal government contractors are wondering if the impeachment will throw a wrench into the procurement works? We all know that fall federal RFP activity is slower than spring and summer. But will the effect of the impeachment on the federal procurement market be relatively large, moderate, or slight?
Best educated guess among old hands close to government is that, initially, the impeachment will not have a significant effect. Congress and the White House may be focused on the impeachment question. But the procuring activities will go forward and do their jobs. Few procurements need presidential or even departments’ secretarial approval.
The most important factor that will affect federal proposal activity is the enactment of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations.
Will the Impeachment Jinx the Appropriations?
However, the path to enacting appropriations bills is full of rough terrain, unexpected curves, and land mines. Of course, we have the Continuing Resolution (CR) in force until November 27. When that law expires, the impeachment inquiry almost certainly will not be completed. But as that process continues, we can expect increasing disharmony between the parties. So, let’s assume that enacting all of the regular appropriations bills for the full fiscal year is out of the question. We foresee the need for, and likelihood of, a second CR taking us to some time in early 2020.
Next, let’s look at the factors likely to be in play then. Articles of Impeachment have been passed in the House, and an impeachment trial is about to begin in the Senate. Even though the top-line numbers for spending were agreed back in August, the Dems and the Republicans are miles apart on the appropriations. This is primarily because the president is determined to get multi-billion-dollar funding for the wall, while the Dems are equally opposed to a wall. And unlike most previous years, even DoD is unable to get early appropriations. The Dems learned during the 2019 35-day shutdown that, carving out DoD would cause them to lose leverage.
Federal Government Contractors Facing the Perfect Storm?
This looks like a perfect storm threatening the contractor community. Polarization pushed to an extreme by the fourth presidential impeachment in U.S. history. Too much political distraction and divisiveness to find agreement on timely enactment of appropriations that agencies and contractors yearn for. A difference of philosophy between the two parties on the key question of the wall. And the more the process drags out, the more procurement activity in the departments and agencies will become affected, if not directly, at least indirectly, because of the rancorous feeling in the air.
Of course, it is impossible to predict the progress and surprises in any impeachment process, where there can be infinite variations. However, we at least have the CR. And maybe, when the impeachment process is finished, both parties will be too exhausted to do anything but compromise their differences enough to pass all of the needed appropriations with no further delay.
Note: Alan Chvotkin, EVP at the Professional Services Council, provided input for this article.