Dead on Arrival? Dissecting Trump’s First Budget from a Proposal Professional's Perspective

Mar 21, 2017

On March 13, 2017, the Trump Administration released his “skinny budget”, his administrations’ first federal budget blueprint revealing the President's plan to dramatically reduce the size of the Government.

At first, my plan was to write a quick summary of my budget findings and provide a synopsis of the preverbal “winners and losers” of this proposal. However, after giving the 62-page document a deep dive – I started to realize that not only was this “dead on arrival” as stated by Senator Lindsey Graham, but this proposal would never pass a Red Team Review…let alone a Source Selection Committee. Why? There is way too much fluff!

As a Proposal Professional, my lifelong dream has always been to provide productive feedback to the Government on the development of their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) – so now I will take my opportunity to do so informally.  After you are done giving the blueprint your own once over –do you think this proposal would pass a Source Selection?

Summary of America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again


The graphic above and the table below represent a quick and summarized budget analysis for each major Federal Agency over the past four years as compared to the proposed 2018 “skinny budget”:

2018 Budget Analysis Table for Federal Agencies.png

The table below summarizes three distinct areas for each Federal Agency where the 2018 “skinny budget”:
1. Focuses on Specific Areas for Increases and/or Investments within the Agency
2. Refocuses, Reduces or Reforms within the Agency
3. Completely Eliminates Departments, Offices, Programs and/or Initiatives within the Agency

2018 Budget Broad Agency Breakdown.png


Request for Evaluation Notice (EN) and Final Proposal Revisions (FPRs) for America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again

During the Source Selection Process, it is a best practice for a Procurement Contracting Officer (PCO) to engage in discussions with an Offeror that is in competitive range to facilitate the selection of the most highly qualified solution and/or contractor to ensure best value is provided to the Government. At a minimum, the Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) through the PCO deliberates the following with the Offeror: 1) contrary past performance information; 2) significant weaknesses; and 3) any deficiencies that have been identified during the evaluation. This type of clarification discussion is accomplished through the release of Evaluation Notices (ENs); and once ENs are answered, the PCO follows up with a Final Proposal Revision (FPR) request for legal purposes.

Any EN addressing a proposal deficiency or weakness shall clearly indicate that a deficiency/weakness exists. The PCO is encouraged to discuss other aspects of the offeror’s proposal that could in the opinion of the PCO be altered or explained to enhance materially the proposal’s potential for award.

In the case of the current “skinny budget,” there are clarification discussions that need to be had before making an award. Now, I know this process is essentially facilitated through our Federal Budget Process, where Congress, on behalf of the American People, works to create and pass a “best value proposal” – but indulge me.

Evaluation Notice (EN) #1:

1. On page 5, paragraph 3, the proposal states “eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs” – however, there is only reference to 79 programs (see Broad Federal Agency Breakdown Table above) in the entire document. Could the Administration please clarify the other programs that are set to be eliminated?

Evaluation Notice (EN) #2:

  1. On page 7, paragraph 4, under “Federal agencies are managing programs and delivering critical services more effectively” could the Administration please clarify the definition of “effectively” as well as provide a general Performance Work Standard and Acceptable Quality Levels (AQLs) that the Administration will grade each Federal Agency against to provide evidence that they are working effectively?
  2. On page 7, paragraph 4, under “Federal agencies are managing programs and delivering critical services more effectively” – could the Administration please identify what the “real, hard data” is and where they will be getting this data from as well as from whom it will be provided from and how often?
  3. On page 7, paragraph 4, under “Federal agencies are managing programs and delivering critical services more effectively” – could the Administration please identify what the current tools are that they will be using and how they will proactively identify if the tool(s) are not working? If the tool(s) are not working, can the Administration please describe how it will go about creating, procuring and implementing the new tools that it references?

Evaluation Notice (EN) #3:

  1. On page 8, paragraph 3, under “Federal agencies are more effective and efficient in supporting program outcomes” – can the Administration please clarify if it will be proposing a new approach to the Government Contracting industry as well as the Federal Procurement and Acquisition Lifecycle as it is currently operated today when it states “among the areas that will be addressed are how agencies buy goods and services”?


The number one thing that Proposal Managers try to convey to each and every stakeholder during the proposal response process is to: get rid of the fluff, substantiate your claims with measurable proof, and tell the Government how you will do it.

This guidance is continuously given to the Government contracting industry by Government Procurement Professionals on how to correctly respond to their RFP’s – and perhaps it is time that they take a lesson from our book. Hot button words, win themes, and big statements can only take you so far in this industry; because in the end, it is the how that really matters.

So in conclusion, I request that the Government follows its own advice and submits their Final Proposal Revisions to the American People that answers all of our ENs.

Topics: Federal Budget

Amber Hart

Written by Amber Hart

Amber Hart is a Proposal Development Specialist. She has experience with strategic proposal efforts to include proposal management, technical writing/editing and capture.

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