To Fix Federal Procurement, Start with Smart Data

Originally published on

The Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number is widely recognized as the world’s universal standard for business identification. Among many other benefits, private and public sector executives around the world rely on the D-U-N-S Number to reveal critical information about potential business partners.

The U.S. government is no exception. The past ten presidential administrations have used the D-U-N-S Number to monitor and evaluate the hundreds of thousands of organizations that receive taxpayer dollars through contracts, grants, and loans. It serves as a bridge to reveal and dissect valuable information about companies’ relationships and financial health. It makes the government’s procurement data smarter, and that value, in turn, gets passed to the taxpayer. Despite this value, misconceptions about the D-U-N-S Number continue to persist.

The D-U-N-S Number increases the government’s visibility into its business partners’ activities, delivers legal ownership and company hierarchy data, and provides global monitoring and proactive notifications of key changes – all without putting additional cost burdens on small businesses in America.

Here's why I say that:

First, the D-U-N-S Number is issued at no cost to government awardees and applicants – meaning, any business, of any size, can be issued a D-U-N-S Number, today. Our commitment to issuing D-U-N-S Numbers for free lowers the barriers small businesses confront in doing business with the U.S. government. Moreover, the maintenance of D-U-N-S Numbers is also free to government registrants.

The quality, security, and integrity of our data benefits the United States government, businesses of all sizes, and ultimately the American taxpayer.

If the government chooses to use an alternative - for instance the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) – it should do so with its eyes wide open. The LEI does not give the government information it needs to evaluate entities entrusted with taxpayer dollars. Financial health information, corporate linkages and company history are also absent. In addition, the LEI shifts the cost burden to government awardees or applicants at more than $200 for initial registration and more than $100 annually for maintenance. With approximately 650,000 businesses registered to do business with the government, the LEI stakeholders stand to gain hundreds of millions in the form of registration costs, fees, and maintenance. The small business community should not have to bear this cost burden to bid for a government contract.


We’ve worked in close cooperation with the General Services Administration to expand our partnership with the U.S. government to increase data availability and transparency for both government agencies and the public. This helps the GSA optimize federal procurement processes, while ensuring security and integrity of the data. The agreement significantly improves access to the data for analysis and innovation.

And finally, it’s important to note that smart data – about the businesses registered to receive taxpayer dollars – is needed to reduce fraud. Our new GSA agreement allows for even more anti-fraud uses, including improved data utilization within government, advanced analytics, modernization of procurement policies, nimbler policy implementation, multi-dimensional risk analysis, and proactive fraud determination instead of a reactive “pay and chase” approach. Data quality is foundational to smart data, and to uncovering the truth and meaning from data. As the new administration begins implementing its priorities, we encourage the government to continue leveraging the power and possibilities of the global standard, the D-U-N-S Number – not only because of our history of helping to keep government procurement and other award data accurate and meaningful, but because the quality, security, and integrity of our data benefits the United States government, businesses of all sizes, and ultimately the American taxpayer.