Fiscal Service Data Lab Breaks Down 10 Years of Contract Spending Data

The Treasury department’s Fiscal Service Data Lab has released a new dataset intending to answer the question, “How has federal contract spending changed over time?” The team “investigated a decade of data on federal government contract spending,” exploring seasonal and annual trends, and comparing “the type of congressional appropriations….and whether they could predict any changes in contract spending.”

The data showed that “federal spending on contracts increased from fiscal year 2007 through 2010, following the surge in federal funding related to the Recovery Act.” Following the Recovery Act’s conclusion in 2011, “contract spending began to decrease, which accelerated following sequestration in 2013. By 2015, contract spending had fallen 27 percent from its 2010 peak, before rebounding slightly in the following years.”

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The data lab “also observed seasonal trends in contract spending occurring within a single year,” looking “at weekly spending on federal contracts,” and finding “that spending tended to rise and fall on a monthly cadence, with roughly one small peak and one small drop per month.”


Perhaps unsurprisingly, “contract spending spiked in September, one week prior to the end of the government’s fiscal year,” with the team finding that “end-of-year spikes consistently occurred across the decade, and generally followed the broad rise and fall of spending.”

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These spikes are not mere academic questions, as the data indicated that, “on average, September spikes accounted for between 6-8 percent of the annual spending” in any given fiscal year.


The full, interactive presentation, which dives further into how spending is influenced by the congressional budgeting process, can be accessed here on the Data Lab website.

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