he importance of the end of the fiscal year is something almost anyone working for the federal government is somewhat familiar with. But for those working in Contracting and Resource Management, the days leading up to it are among the busiest and most important of their entire year. And while for some employees the days leading up to a “fiscal new year,” are simply background noise, Contracting and RM are quite literally ensuring their agencies continue to function.
This is especially true in an organization like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM) which deals in multi-million dollar construction contracts as well as a host of smaller contracts for services throughout the Middle East supporting U.S. military and allied nations in the region.
TAM’s Chief of Contracting Lisa Billman, said that although the size of a contract can play a role in how long it takes to award, there are many other factors involved which is one reason employees may notice multiple contracts both large and small being awarded in the last weeks of the fiscal year.
“There are many activities that take the same amount of time despite the dollar value of the requirement. These can vary based on procurement type, procurement method and other factors in addition to the dollar value of the procurement,” said Billman.
Joseph Zaraszczak, a senior program manager in the District, said that he appreciated the care that Billman and her team put into each contract no matter the value.
“The small dollar contracts are just as important as the ones that run into tens of millions of dollars. Many of these smaller contracts are extremely important to our mission partners and can influence whether they want to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our District in the future on bigger projects and programs,” he said.
Billman for her part appreciated the work those outside of Contracting put into making sure everything is as it should be.
“The Project Delivery Teams work hard to be efficient yet thorough in assisting the customer. There’s a lot of work they put into scope development, writing the solicitation and evaluating proposals.”
Billman said one reason the end of the fiscal year is so busy is that the type of funds used are annual --meaning they have to be used in that fiscal year or they will no longer be available for a given project.
Our contractors need proper time to develop proposals. We strive to be efficient but never cut corners, rushing the process or taking shortcuts usually won’t yield good results. To quote the movie The Princess Bride, ‘You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.’”
Contracting is not the only division working overtime to make sure financial transactions at the end of the year go smoothly. The District’s Resource Management section also plays an extremely important role in making sure the books are balanced. And much like Contracting, RM is quick to credit the entire team for this effort.
“RM partners with all other departments, especially Contracting and Programs and Project Management, to ensure payroll is posted, payments for travel and other expenses are processed or entered, contracts are awarded or modified, etc. There are also expenses across all departments in the organization, like facilities costs, are properly distributed before established cut-offs. And, we ensure that all unused funding is returned to our stakeholders, and that other loose ends that would prevent proper reconciliation of our financial records are corrected prior to the end of the fiscal year,” said Erin Connolly, TAM’s finance and accounting officer.
She also said that for the average person not directly involved in RM or contracting issues, the best things they can do to help the process are to have patience and notify RM early of any potential fiscal issues.
“We are under very accelerated deadlines on actions that are required to successfully close out the fiscal year, so any actions that do not involve year end closure may be delayed, not just by us in the district, but by HQ or the USACE Finance Center as well. Examples of inquiries that may be delayed are questions about travel reimbursements, training, payroll corrections, etc. And if RM is reaching out to you for answers relating to an end of year action or task, please respond as quickly and as accurately as possible, as this may be just a first step in a multi-step action that is pending a response,” said Connolly.
She noted it’s a good rule of thumb to notify RM “early and often” if you believe there is a problem funding or the need to award or modify a contract.
The District’s commander Col. Philip Secrist said that he appreciated the hard work he sees his team put in.
“Year after year, I see our Contracting and RM sections going above and beyond to ensure we’re fiscally accountable. We have a program that’s in the billions of dollars range so that’s no small task. I don’t think I can fully convey how appreciative I am of their efforts."