GSA Asks How to Break DUNS Monopoly


Dun & Bradstreet’s monopoly on federal grantee and contractor data may soon crumble.

Currently, the U.S. government has a government-wide contract with D&B to use its proprietary Digital Universal Numbering System (DUNS) to identify all grantees and contractors.

Because the DUNS Number is proprietary, non-governmental users of grant and contract information must purchase a license from D&B in order to download and use the data – even though this is public data, showing the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.

Open data and proprietary standards don’t mix! Federal spending data simply cannot be fully open until we dump DUNS.

The federal government used to legally require the use of the DUNS Number. That barrier to freely-available assistance and procurement data fell last October, when the federal acquisition regulation was changed so it no longer forces every agency to require its grantees and contractors to identify themselves that way.

But the legal change didn’t fix the reality: the government-wide contract with D&B is still in effect.

Last Friday (February 10, 2017), the General Services Administration, which manages the government-wide database of grantees and contractors and which administers the government-wide contract with D&B, released a Request for Information on alternatives to the DUNS Number.

The Request for Information asks interested parties to explain how the DUNS Number might be replaced with a non-proprietary standard – something freely reusable, rather than owned by a contractor.

The Request for Information also asks for alternate ways to track grantees’ and contractors’ corporate hierarchy. When many different subsidiaries of the same company are contracting with the government, it should be possible to track them all back to the same parent – instantly and electronically.

The global Legal Entity Identifier is one such alternative. The LEI, which is managed by a nonprofit organization, is freely reusable and downloadable. The LEI has already been adopted by dozens of government agencies around the world to identify the private-sector entities that report information to them.

Not only is the LEI nonproprietary – soon it will have hierarchical data built right in.

To learn more about the Legal Entity Identifier and how it could transform government reporting, join us on March 16 in Washington at our third annual Financial Data Summit, presented by Donnelley Financial Solutions. Our featured speakers include Global LEI Foundation CEO Stephan Wolf.