Managing Your Training Dollars in the Era of Continuing Appropriations Resolutions
The old saying goes, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop,” but, when working in or with the government, “Waiting for the money to drop” is more like it. The last time the United States Congress passed a budget was in May of 2015. Prior to that, the last time a budget was passed was in 2009. Suffice it to say, the Federal Government has adopted the business practice of funding its operations with Continuing Appropriations Resolutions and with them comes funding uncertainty.
The strain that funding uncertainties place on agencies forces them to make spending priorities that results in winners and losers. Unfortunately for government employees, training budgets are often the losers. Though many career fields require continuous training that agencies cannot provide themselves, when the money drops in the second, third or even fourth quarter of a fiscal year, the professionals who have been waiting for the funds to keep the lights on cannot spare the time to take training, even after the money has arrived. This a particularly trying dilemma for government contracting professionals. Whether scrambling for the 80 CLPs required to maintain FAC-C level certification, completing that last class to qualify for the next level warrant or desperately sprinting for the COR certification to manage a large program or project, training is a necessity.
What does an agency contracting shop do when it’s the bottom of the third, the fourth is looming, an entire fiscal year of funds must be spent and certifications are close to expiration? Can training be forward funded into the next fiscal year? If your first reaction is, “What about the Bona Fide Need Rule,” you have good instincts. The Bona Fide Need Rule (31 USC, Section 1502) requires appropriated funds be used only for goods and services for which a need arises during the period of that appropriation’s availability for obligation. Agencies may only commit funds to acquire goods, supplies, and services that meet the bona-fide needs of the period for which Congress appropriated funds, or to replace stock used during that period.
So how can training ever be forward funded? Here’s how. Training is usually a non-severable service. A training class with a defined beginning and end is non-severable; therefore, when a training obligation is incurred in one fiscal year, the entire cost is chargeable to that year, even if that training extends into the following year. This means that any training funded and initiated before appropriated funds expire may continue to completion after the appropriation period ends.
Sometimes training is severable, such as a series of courses that are required to complete a certification. In the case of severable training, agencies may enter into severable services contracts for a period that begins in one fiscal year and ends in the next, IF the contract period for the training does not exceed one year. (41 U.S. Code § 3902). The key word here is “contract”. Rather than scheduling training on a case-by-case basis, an agency that enters into a contract for multiple training events within a twelve-month period of performance, can ensure that their training needs are met moving into the next fiscal year.
Both scenarios begin in one fiscal year and end in another. What about training funded in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) and taken in Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19)? According to GAO decision B-238940, Feb 25, 1991, 70 Comp.Gen. 296, it is possible to obligate funds from one fiscal year to training that occurs in the next fiscal year, IF and ONLY IF:
- The training provider requires the agency to register during the expiring fiscal year;
- The training date offered is the only one available; and
- The time between the registration and the training is not excessive.
The fourth quarter of FY18 is less than two months away and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 expires on September 30, 2018. Now is the time to start filling the first and second quarters of FY19 with training for acquisition professionals. For further information about how Management Concepts can fulfill your acquisition training needs, please visit us at https://www.managementconcepts.com/.