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Companies scramble for $98 billion in federal contract spending

August 25, 2017 Paul Murphy

This analysis was first available to Bloomberg Government subscribers

As the clock ticks down on fiscal 2017, an estimated $98 billion in federal agency contract obligations remains unspent.

Federal agencies have until the end of September to spend an estimated $488 billion approved by Congress for their operations in fiscal 2017, or about $2.5 billion a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

An estimated $390 billion had been spent as of Aug. 22. Any available funds not under contract by the end of next month will be returned to the Treasury.

The Department of Defense leads all federal agencies with $60 billion available to spend through the end of September, which represents about one out of five of its estimated, year- end spending total. The Department of State leads all agency shares of estimated, unspent obligations, at 41 percent.

Much of the government’s year-end spending rush traditionally occurs in the last few days of the year. Federal agencies spent a combined $38 billion from Sept. 23-30 last year.

The government’s fiscal fourth quarter is well known as the most intense spending period of the year. The late passage of a 2017 omnibus budget, the slow pace of senior agency political appointments, a hiring freeze, and general bureaucratic inertia has made this year’s Q4 particularly acute.

Agency budgets and approaches to spending caps are still under debate in Congress and the Trump administration, adding to vendor uncertainty. Some are racing to build a contracts backlog that can weather any financial storm.

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