Acquisition and execution of federal engineering and construction contracts are changing
My review of the President’s Budget FY 2018 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Budget and Work Plan suggests that acquisition and execution of federal engineering and construction contracts are changing. I believe that change is coming slowly and that the architecture-engineering industry will need to lead the changes.
Since my April “The times they are a-changin” blog was published, I have attended four conferences focused on federal engineering and construction programs. In addition, I have talked to scores of civilian and military leaders in the USACE, the Naval Facilities Engineering Program, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and the General Services Administration. This input only reinforces my thoughts on the future.
Faster project execution
At every conference I attended, government leaders stressed the need for streamlining project delivery to deliver projects quicker. On average, it takes seven years for a project to advance from concept to delivery. The services would like to cut this in half.
The installation planning and programming process does not work well. Junior engineers are preparing the project estimates. Then after the estimate has wound its way up through the chain of command, Congress is authorizing these projects based on an estimate that may be several years old. Reducing concept to delivery time will require close cooperation between government and industry. It will also require both policy and legislative changes.
Increased emphasis on outsourcing
The federal workforce hiring freeze has been lifted; however, the President’s budget continues the pressure to reduce the size and cost of the federal government. The administration and leadership in Congress are committed to reducing the federal workforce and outsourcing services.
The scope and structure of this outsourcing will take time to be determined, and will not happen right away. In fact, the USACE is filling new positions and staffing multiple centers of expertise. However, I predict there will be more outsourcing over time. It is important that the architecture-engineering community stays engaged during this transition.
Regulatory changes to reduce cost and complexity
Along with workforce reductions and increased outsourcing, the administration is also looking to reduce the regulatory burdens to doing business. Many professional organizations, including the American Council of Engineering Companies, are working with federal agencies and Congress to help with this effort. I am convinced that we must reduce the cost and complexity of doing business with the federal government. It will not come easily or quickly so we in the architecture-engineering community must be engaged.
Public-private partnerships to help fund infrastructure
Finally, there is much discussion about using public-private partnerships to fund the $1 trillion infrastructure surge. The administration envisions funding only $200 billion of this surge with federal appropriations.
There are many challenges to the successful implementation P3. To be successful, a P3 must provide the private investor with a return on investment. Additionally, the public entity must relinquish some control over the infrastructure. This loss of control also applies to Congress. However, federal agencies currently have very little legal authority to implement P3.
It remains to be seen how all this will play out in the next few months and years. This too will take time and much effort.
Helping to shape change
To recap, change is coming to acquisition and execution of federal engineering and construction, but that change is coming slowly and industry will need to help lead that change. The most important areas of projected change are:
- Faster project execution
- Increased emphasis on outsourcing
- Regulatory changes to reduce cost and complexity
- Public-private partnerships to help fund much needed infrastructure
Many professional organizations including the Society of American Military Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers and ACEC are actively involved in helping shape that change. To be successful, they need our input and effort. Let’s get involved and help make a very positive difference for our country.
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