GSA, Dun & Bradstreet agree on wider DUNS use

Shutterstock image (by wavebreakmedia): doors opening to data streams. 

Federal agencies and the public will have wider use of the data generated using the proprietary business identifier used in government procurement, the DUNS number, under a new deal between the General Services Administration and Dun & Bradstreet.

Dun & Bradstreet's Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) has been used by the federal government as a unique and proprietary identifier for years to track spending. The GSA requires the use of a DUNS number in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and the number is also prescribed by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.

The new arrangement applies to GSA's current deal with D&B, which runs through June 2018. The government is paying $26 million for the expanded use of the DUNS data, according to D&B. Historical data linked to DUNS identifiers will be maintained by the government, and not returned to D&B as was previously the case.

The use of a proprietary identifier has irked many in the open government community. The issue came to a head at the close of fiscal year 2014, when the government lost five years of spending data on when a DUNS license expired.

Previously, data collected could be used only for a narrowly defined "acquisition purpose," which restricted use of DUNS-related information across government, Kevin Youel Page, deputy commissioner at GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, wrote in a soon-to-publish blog post on the agreement. The new contract changes change that, he said.

Youel Page said GSA and Dun and Bradstreet had renegotiated the contract to incorporate a change in the way the federal government can use the proprietary DUNS data obtained through Integrated Award Environment systems.

Specifically, the renegotiated contract gets rid barriers of use within the federal government for DUNS-sourced data distributed by the IAE, making the data available for wider use by any federal agency for their business analysis purposes.

It also gives the federal government perpetual access to the DUNS data, even if Dun & Bradstreet is replaced in its support role, according to Youel Page. This is potentially critical, as the government has been considering alternatives to DUNS.

Thirdly, said Youel Page, the new terms allow third parties to access and use a subset of the DUNS data for commercial use

"Now, D&B information can be used for other activities, like compiling research of historical procurement information and conducting trend analysis," he said.

Brian Williams, business development director for Dun & Bradstreet Government Solutions told FCW in a Sept. 28 interview that the agreement between his company and GSA took effect in June, enabling perpetual use of data and expanding the use of the data generated through the number across government, as well as encouraging its use outside of federal government.

That wider use, he said, is necessary as procurement data evolves beyond just being a transaction record and is folded into GSA's IAE. The IAE effort looks to improve systems and operations that provide administrative and operational support for federal financial assistance--such as grants and loans, contracts and intergovernmental transactions.

The new DUNS agreement, Williams said, won't really affect its everyday use in federal acquisitions, but is important in a wider context as the shift towards managing data across the government continues under efforts like the DATA Act.

"It lives in the awards management system," he said. The data tagged by the DUNS, he explained, can be used in many different ways, such as helping detect fraud, risk and abuse in federal contracts, as well as project management applications.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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