Short Take: GAO Issues Report on Contracting Trends
March 14, 2017
By: Eric Whytsell
The Government Accountabilty Office (GAO) recently released its “Contracting Data Analysis: Assessment of Government-Wide Trends” report. As GAO notes, in fiscal year 2015 federal contracts for goods and services totaled over $430 billion, which represents almost 40 percent of the government’s discretionary spending. The new report identifies overall trends in contracting by defense and civilian agencies from fiscal years 2011 through 2015 (the most recent and complete available at the time of GAO’s review), including trends in competition and use of various contract types. It also provides snapshots of procurement activity at the 10 civilian agencies with the highest levels of obligations in fiscal year 2015, as well as the 3 military departments.
In preparing the report, GAO analyzed data from the government’s procurement database, the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), and reviewed prior GAO and Inspector General reports. The report presents all data in constant fiscal year 2015 dollars.
Key observations from the report include:
- While overall contract obligations decreased over the 5-year period, the decrease occurred primarily at the Department of Defense. Defense contract obligations in fiscal year 2015 for products and services decreased by almost 31 percent from fiscal year 2011 levels.
- About 60 percent of government-wide contract obligations are for services, with civilian agencies obligating 80 percent of their contract dollars for services.
- Federal agencies consistently obligated about $50 billion annually for contracted services that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and our prior work have identified as needing increased management attention, such as professional and management support services.
While GAO did not make any new recommendations in this report, it did note that agencies had generally concurred with and taken or proposed actions to address the numerous reports with recommendations related to competition, contract type, and contracted services that have been issued by GAO in recent years.
Eric Whytsell is responsible for the contents of this Short Take.
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