Expect the 20+ Year Continuing Resolution Streak to (WAIT FOR IT…) Continue in 2021

It is September, the last month of the Government’s fiscal year. This means many things for those whose livelihoods depend on the U.S. Federal Government.

Government personnel, especially those in contracting, budgeting, and program management, are busy trying to obligate and / or disperse funding before appropriations limits kick in. This means no new program starts are likely, as the focus is on awarding task orders and cleaning up end-of-year business.

For Government Contractors, it also means an increased challenge in getting the attention of key Government personnel to conduct business development activities – because these same people are caught up in the September frenzy.

But the big issue at play is whether Congress will pass all 12 major appropriations before September 30th — recent history shows this to be unlikely.

Since 1997, Congress has never – let me say that again – never passed all 12 major appropriations bills by the deadline. Continuing Resolutions (CRs) have been utilized for at least one appropriation bill each year since 1997. According to an analysis of Congressional Research Service-produced CR data by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Congress has used CRs more than 124 times covering each FY since 1998. That’s an average of five CRs per year since.

Without a budget, congress must pass a Continuing Resolution, which is a temporary stopgap spending bill that allows the Government to continue operating at prior fiscal year budget levels until a full budget is passed. CRs can be government-wide or aimed at specific appropriations – such as defense, agriculture, health and human services, etc.

Many news outlets that cover Capitol Hill have indicated that a CR is likely this year – especially for the annual defense appropriation.  In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on defense issued a statement in July indicating that a defense bill isn’t likely until December.

What does this mean to you?

  • New Start Programs — if you are expecting a contract award for a new start program to occur before January 1, 2022, you may want to begin adjusting your planning activities to the right
  • Existing Programs — funding normally begins to flow in November and December if appropriations bills are passed on time; but in a CR, funds may not flow until January or February because funding levels are prioritized and meted out in monthly allotments aimed at continuing operations, which are prioritized over contracts

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