Reading just the headlines for the last couple of years, one might think that the agencies and departments of the U.S. federal system were shuttered and empty. Nothing could be further from the truth. The U.S. economy is still the largest and strongest on earth and our federal government institutions are still serving the needs of our nation and our people every day. Sure, there are budget cuts in force and funding priorities that have changed over the past few years, but both the major and minor players on the federal scene are adapting and adjusting accordingly. They are very clear that their mission—serving and protecting the interests of the United States of America—remains intact and explicit.
Major departments, such as the Department of Defense (DoD) have experienced unprecedented budget cuts. However, the authorized funding for DoD this fiscal year remains in the billions of dollars with specific budgets for line-item projects, such as fighting force support facilities, higher than they have ever been before. These specific, high-priority projects are funded and they are moving forward.
There are other federal entities, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, that have seen their funding actually increase this year to levels substantially above any in the past decade. These specific and targeted funding expansions address real and urgent needs that have developed over time and can no longer be ignored.
In all cases, the employees of federal departments and agencies are tapping the skills and expertise of the private sector to support the focused and necessary work they are conducting. Within some organizations less work is being shared with the private sector than in recent years, as a new generation of civil service employees is being trained to replace retiring "baby-boomers." This is a transitory phase that will allow more efficient and effective management of out-sourced federal work in future years when the present wave of civil service new-hires has reached proficiency. Even during this training phase for high-work-volume organizations like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), more than half of all their engineering and construction work is still being contracted to private sector providers.
So, it is important to remember that even though the U.S. Federal Government is, like the rest of us, choosing to focus its precious resources wisely and judiciously, it is still "open for business" and working hand-in-hand with private sector firms to get the business of the country done. Our government clients are funded, functioning and highly focused, and engineering consulting companies can help them get the job done understanding that frugal, functional and sustainable solutions are what we must design, build and operate together.