Three agencies collaborate on contractor database

Three federal agencies are working on a plan that will save time and money for government contractors and agencies conducting electronic commerce by creating a single interface to a distributed database of contractor data.

The Office of Management and Budget recently asked the Defense and Treasury departments and the Small Business Administration to identify the basic information that all agencies need to know about companies to conduct electronic commerce.

The effort is aimed at reducing the number of times vendors must register to conduct EC with the government while also providing agencies a central source to tap for information on contractors including taxpayer identification numbers names and addresses.

The goal is to incorporate data distributed in different databases managed by the government and possibly by private organizations. The data would be easily accessible electronically making it appear as if it were stored in one place.

"We're not interested in building an infrastructure or a new system to store data " said Wayne Wittig EC team leader at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. "The technology exists data warehousing is used in the commercial market. We're asking agencies whether there is a better way we can coordinate and collect data. We want to improve agency mission performance and improve government delivery of service by changing the process."

Agencies seem pleased with the concept. "We think there is merit to it if we can have the data all in one place " said Tony Trenkle co-chairman of the General Services Administrations's Electronic Commerce Acquisition Program Management Office.

Lightening the Load

A governmentwide database also will free agencies from managing numerous databases. NASA for example manages 10 vendor databases. "To me that's one less stone in the wall that [vendors and contractors] have to overcome to do business with the federal government " said Jim Bradford proj-ect leader for NASA's Acquisition Internet Service.

OMB asked the three agencies to submit a plan by March 31. The Electronic Processes Initiatives Committee a high-level management team will review the plan.

DOD an early proponent of the registry is the lead agency in the effort. The department decided last month that it will make vendor registration in its Central Contractor Registration database a requirement for most solicitations and awards issued after Sept. 30.

CCR will make it easier for DOD to comply with several recent pieces of legislation said Carol Covey deputy director of Defense procurement for cost pricing and finance. For example the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 requires federal agencies to retain the taxpayer identification number of every contractor. "Part of the CCR database is this taxpayer ID so we can get the information that way " Covey said.

Judith Roussel associate administrator for government contracting at SBA said the agency is considering using SBA's Procurement Automated Source System (PASS) as the entry point to the distributed information.

PASS which holds the names of around 200 000 vendors will offer links to other databases such as CCR. PASS Roussel said is the most comprehensive database in the government in terms of its size and the type of information it contains on small businesses.

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