A Look Inside the Federal Market

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 by
In Federal Services, tagged in

Having spent time as an engineer in a Facility Engineer Detachment in the Army Reserves, Jason Davis, PE, ENV SP, our vice president of federal services, has performed design work for the Army for nearly two decades. He joined Affinis in 2000 and has lead most of our task orders with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), including our first levee inspection. We sat down with him recently to find out how he thinks the federal market has changed and what we can anticipate in the next 10 years.

How do you think needs have changed over the years in the federal market?
We have been performing levee inspections for USACE since 2009, and there continues to be demand for that. However, we’re starting to see more task orders ranging from ecosystem restoration, bat surveys and bathometric surveys. While the work has diversified for us, there is also more competition to secure federal design contracts. We are now competing with more small businesses in the market. This is because the threshold for a small business was raised from $4M to $15M for our NAICS Code.

What are some of the larger challenges facing federal projects?
For us, one of the biggest challenges comes with forming a team that addresses the entire scope. We’ve been lucky to find some excellent companies with whom we work well. We have worked with our teaming partners for several years and have gained experience solving challenges together.

On a more global level, schedules always require strategy. Keeping pace with project timelines is incredibly important to us, and we understand funding can take time. After it is appropriated by Congress, it has to be allocated by USACE for work across the country. As you can imagine, it is a lengthy process.

Once the funds are in place, schedules are often compressed. In fact, some projects have locked schedules that require completion by the end of the fiscal year.

How do you help overcome these challenges?
When we put together the schedule, we work closely with our partners to ensure it is realistic. We also team with USACE to adjust it when we can. The key is to ensure important items are addressed. In some cases, we’ve even provided design documents in phases. Phasing of the design documents allows us to capture changes earlier in the project rather than at the end requiring re-work and time.

How have design solutions changed over the years?
Solutions haven’t, but technology has. We’ve seen large advancements in survey equipment with the use of drones and Lidar. Now, we can collect data in the field and upload it in real-time to the Cloud. The Cloud allows our office staff to assist surveyors in the field, as well being able to start digesting the data before the survey crew returns.

We’re working with partners in diverse locations, so when it comes to managing the project, many of our meetings are conference calls, as opposed to face-to-face. With the web, we can talk through pinch points and evaluate plans, while eliminating drive time. It’s much more efficient.

How do you think the market will change in the next 10 years?
I think it will be more about maintaining existing facilities, as opposed to building new construction. There will also be a greater emphasis on climate change, particularly how it affects coastal cities.

But, we’ll be examining how it impacts those of us in the Midwest too. Dams and levees will be analyzed to see if they’re sized correctly, and general infrastructure will be evaluated as well. We won’t be able to do it all at once. Instead, I think these changes will be completed in phases. Funding these types of projects will be a challenge due to the enormous scope and impacts of the problem.

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