Is DUNS done?

The General Services Administration is looking for alternatives to the Data Universal Numbering System, used to identify government contractors and grantees, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

The DUNS numbers have come under scrutiny after competitors of Dun & Bradstreet, the company that created and provides the DUNS numbers system, has created a monopoly for government unique identifiers that has contributed to higher costs.

Costs of the system have increased from about $1 million in 2002 to approximately $19 million per year under the current contract, GAO said.

“This effective monopoly results in part from government regulations and directives that require contractors, grantees, and other entities seeking to do business with the government to obtain a DUNS number,” GAO said. “Also, due to the proprietary nature of DUNS numbers, Dun & Bradstreet has placed restrictions on how GSA can use DUNS numbers. This limits the purposes for which the government can use the data and hampers the ability to switch to a new numbering system.”


To address concerns about the high costs and proprietary restrictions associated with the government’s use of DUNS numbers, GSA recently began an analysis of alternatives for unique numbering systems.

In its ongoing analysis, GSA has conducted market research and plans to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study for alternatives to using DUNS numbers. GSA has concluded that it is not in the best interests of the government to change from one proprietary number to another.

The agency is therefore evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of replacing DUNS numbers with a government-owned numbering system. GSA also will be considering a hybrid approach utilizing both DUNS numbers and a government-owned numbering system, which could be a viable alternative. A key factor in deciding whether to replace DUNS numbers in government data systems is the cost of switching, GAO said.

GAO recommends that the GSA administrator initiate discussions with D&B on ways to reduce current restrictions on the use of DUNS numbers.

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