Procurement data to be free to most

Outsourced GSA system will be available to heavy users for a small fee

FPDS Web page

Information from the new Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation will, in most circumstances, be available free to users, a General Services Administration official confirmed last week.

Each quarter, GSA officials will publish 40 standard reports free of charge and also will run custom reports at no charge, said David Drabkin, the agency's deputy chief acquisition officer. Many of the standard reports will be customizable and will draw on the latest data. For example, users could run a report to list the top 50 contractors with headquarters in a selected state.

Users who want unfettered access to the database will have to pay a one-time charge of about $2,500 to establish a connection, Drabkin said.

Market research firms such as Federal Sources Inc. are among the latter group. Some officials from those companies had worried that the information was going to become more expensive or less available now that Global Computer Enterprises Inc., a private contractor, has taken over FPDS.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of and chief knowledge officer at FSI, after Drabkin announced the new terms. "I'm skeptical because this is information that used to be readily available, albeit [in] poor quality. Here we have to trust that spending $2,500 is going to be an added value."

GSA officials used to make the needed information available at cost — for a few hundred dollars a year, Bjorklund said. FSI uses the procurement data in FPDS to perform market analyses.

The old FPDS, which GSA officials are phasing out, was widely considered to be inaccurate and outdated. Agencies are supposed to feed data directly to the new system in real time, Drabkin said. Agencies that cannot accomplish that right away can use a batch process or an individual Web interface, he said.

GSA officials have been working on making the transition, but Bjorklund said the agency has not had employees available to make the CDs of data that FSI usually receives.

In lieu of that service, agency officials opened a file transfer site so that FSI analysts can download the information they need.

"It's the very raw data, and you have to do a lot of processing on it, but it's zero dollars," Bjorklund said. "But of course, there's

no 2004 data on that site, which is very frustrating."

Paul Murphy, president of Eagle Eye Publishers Inc., a federal market research company, had also worried that the data would become prohibitively expensive.

"This sounds like a reasonable and simple solution to FPDS-NG data access," he said. "It is very close to the solution Eagle Eye has been pursuing for nearly a year."

However, he is still waiting for "written confirmation that this new policy has been incorporated into GSA's official FPDS-NG data dissemination strategy," he said. "But it sounds like we are miles ahead of where we were just four months ago."

Consultant Phil Kiviat, of Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates Inc., said that GSA officials should have figured out a pricing structure sooner.

"It was clearly a government function," Kiviat said. "They outsourced it, and how do you deal with the economics of the new situation? It wasn't thought through. I think it will work itself out. It's not a complicated problem."

***

Slicing and dicing the data

The following are among the standard reports available for free from the General Services Administration€s new Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation:

All categories of small-business awards.

Awards to 8(a) contractors.

Important information about contract actions.

All actions by user-specified contractors.

Federal procurement by state.

Contract actions by department.

Small-business goal report.

Socioeconomic goal report.

Top 50 contractors in a selected state or county.

Total federal snapshot.

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