GSA widens usability of DUNS data, opens future for alternatives

The General Services Administration recently renegotiated a key contract with the company that provides the federal government a proprietary identifier to track its spending, allowing agencies a wider use of the company's data going forward.

The General Services Administration recently renegotiated a key contract with the company that provides the federal government a proprietary identifier to track its spending, allowing agencies a wider use of the company’s data going forward.

Under the renegotiated contract with Dun & Bradstreet, allowing agencies to use the compiled spending data beyond “a narrowly defined ‘acquisition purpose,'” as it had been prior to this, “for other activities, like compiling research of historical procurement information and conducting trend analysis,” a GSA blog post explains.

With the renegotiation, the contract now extends through June 2018 — the original deal was struck in June 2010 — with a modification value of $26 million, a GSA spokesperson told FedScoop.

Since the 1970s, Dun & Bradstreet has collected data on federal spending with its proprietary Data Universal Numbering System, better known as a DUNS. GSA uses DUNS numbers to track spending of the governmentwide contracts in its Integrated Award Environment, which it says supports “responsible award decisions using taxpayer dollars as well as provide[s] insights into federal government spending.”


“There are still some restrictions on the amount of data available for public consumption, but the government’s use of the information is no longer restrained,” Kevin Youel Page, GSA’s acting assistant commissioner for the IAE, wrote in the blog post. “We expect the expansion of these data rights to assist agencies in making better-informed, data-driven decisions as they strive to meet their missions.”

Now any federal agency can use the D&B data for analysis, under the renegotiated contract. Likewise, the contract opens some of the data to third parties for commercial use. It also removes a requirement that D&B data would need to be removed from government systems if another party were to take over its support position.

GSA, with NASA and the Defense Department, also published a regulatory rule Thursday removing proprietary references to Dun & Bradstreet in the FAR.

“By removing references to specific identifiers, the FAR change removes any policy requirements regarding who can provide key services to the federal government,” the blog post says.

“These two actions lay the foundation for the next steps in analyzing alternatives to support the continued integrity of the federal procurement process, increase transparency, and open competition,” Youel Page wrote.


Federal use of the DUNS number came a under widespread criticism in recent years, particularly as the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget have made it a central part of reporting spending in implementation of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which requires the government to make financial data more transparent and accessible by next May.

[Read more: DATA Act standards come with some concerns]

In November, when the regulatory rule was first proposed, the Data Coalition called the move the government’s “first step away from proprietary data standards and its first step towards opening this important data.”

“By scrubbing the contracting rules of any reference to the DUNS Number, the government removes the presumption that the DUNS Number is the only option for agencies and systems that track spending,” the coalition said. “Even after the change, the DUNS Number will remain in use – but this action will make it legally possible to eventually dump DUNS.”

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