If you work for the U.S. government, you know that anytime you need to purchase something it is never quite as easy as just going out and buying it. Whether you’re just needing a few office supplies or a whole new office, there is a specific process you have to go through in order to get the approval you need to spend any of the government’s money—and that process takes time.
This is especially true if you work in the Department of Defense (DoD).
At CoverSix Shelters, we have extensive experience working with all areas within the DoD and have learned that often, the “color” of the money you use to make a purchase—especially those involving structures—can have a big impact on how long it takes to actually get what you need.
So, what does the “color of money” mean?
In layman’s terms, if you say that you want to see the color of someone’s money, it means that you are not willing to sell them something until they prove that they have the money to pay for it.
The “color of money” is an official Department of Defense term that refers to the five different kinds of appropriations available within the DoD.
Every purchase made within the U.S. government is tied to an appropriation bill (sometimes known as a spending bill) that is approved by congress and sets aside money for a specific use. These appropriations are as follows:
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) Appropriations
These are appropriations which pay for the research and development of equipment, materials, computer software and their testing and evaluation.
This appropriation is used to fund the purchase of goods and non-construction related items.
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Appropriations
O&M appropriations pay for things like civilian salaries, travel, training and education, facility maintenance, and base operations support.
Military Personnel (MILPERS) Appropriations
If it’s used to fund the costs related to the salaries and other compensation for active and retired military personnel, as well as all reserve forces, then you’re talking about a MILPERS appropriation.
Military Construction (MILCON) Appropriations
This appropriation funds major construction projects such as bases, schools, storage and maintenance facilities, medical clinics, and military housing.
How can “the color of money” play into the acquisition of new facilities?
Just looking over the appropriations listed above, it would appear as if you only have one real option when it comes to getting the funding you need for a new facility—but looks can be deceiving, because within the Department of Defense, the color of money available to you greatly depends on the type of building you’re looking to acquire.
Traditional, stick-built, brick-and-mortar buildings must use money set aside through Military Construction (MILCON) appropriations, while modular buildings—like those constructed by CoverSix—can be purchased through Operations and Maintenance appropriations.
Confused? You’re not alone.
The difference comes down to mobility.
The fact that modular buildings can be relocated depending on where they are needed and are not seen as permanent, means that they are classified as “equipment” by the U.S. military, not as a formal construction project.
What does modular construction mean for your timeline?
Being able to get financing through Operations and Maintenance appropriations versus Military Construction appropriations can ultimately shave years off the time it takes you to get your facility.
The reason comes down to the fact that MILCON projects have to be approved by Congress—a process that can take between five to seven years—while projects funded by Operations and Maintenance appropriations can sidestep the entire procedure.
So, while you can wait five to seven years before you can even get started on the construction of a traditional building, you can have a completed modular building delivered to your site within six to 12 months.
The long-term benefits of a modular building
In addition to being time-efficient and mobile, modular buildings offer the added benefit of being easily modifiable.
If your needs ever change, or you outgrow your space, modular buildings are designed to be expanded and reconfigured. By comparison, if you wanted to dramatically reimagine a traditional, stick-built facility, you would most likely need to tear it down and start the whole process all over again—a waste of additional time and money.
Making the most of the color of money: final thoughts.
The next time you need to add a new facility to your site, it may be to your advantage to look at exactly what your needs are and determine whether or not a modular building can fit the bill. If it does, you’ll be able to use the “color of money” to your advantage and get the whole project completed in a fraction of the time it takes to get construction for a traditional building even approved. And while you are saving valuable time, you will be gaining a building that is mobile, can be built completely off-site, and can be modified to meet all of your future needs.