Tag Archives: DUNS

GSA Begins Transition To New Identifier Replacing DUNS



July marks the start of the 18-month shift to a new unique entity identifier (UEI) for doing business with the government.

In December 2020, the System for Award Management website, SAM.gov, will stop using the proprietary, nine-digit Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number supplied by Dun & Bradstreet.


“The General Services Administration selected Ernst & Young to supply a non-proprietary UEI for identifying entities during the awards process for things like contracts, grants and cooperative agreements — in SAM.gov and other systems.

While GSA develops tools to generate new UEIs and begins assigning them, the DUNS number will remain the official UEI for registering with SAM.

GSA is also streamlining UEI request, registration and support processes by allowing entities to handle all three through SAM.gov. Previously Dun & Bradstreet assigned DUNS numbers before entities could register on SAM.gov and provided technical support.

In the future, SAM.gov will assign UEIs as 12-character alpha-numeric values — all letters being capitalized.

UEIs won’t use the letters O or I to avoid confusion, use 0 as the first character for ease of data imports, use nine-digit sequences like the DUNS number, have the first five characters conflict with Commercial and Government Entity codes, be case sensitive, or contain the entity’s Electronic Funds Transfer indicator. The final character will be a checksum of the first 11 to detect errors in data.

The entities required to register on SAM.gov haven’t changed, and all forms using the DUNS number will be updated.

UEIs will automatically be assigned to existing entities within SAM.gov and made available for viewing. Large businesses with multiple DUNS numbers will receive multiple, corresponding UEIs.

During the transition phase, entities assigned UEIs will still need to ensure that the agency they’re responding to has switched over to the new identifier or else continue using their old DUNS number.

GSA has provided and explainer video with more details.”

DUNS Number for Federal Contracting On the Way Out



Image: Dun & Bradstreet


“The government has been paying millions each year to use a proprietary identification system to track companies and other recipients of taxpayer dollars.

new rule change may be the beginning of the end for that arrangement, thereby ending the monopoly and saving millions.

The federal government awards over a trillion dollars each year in contracts and grants, and these days a lot of that information is posted online so the public can keep an eye on where exactly our money is going.

Being able to track the recipients is one of the cornerstones for spending accountability. Despite that fact, the federal government has no internal identification system it can use to track companies receiving the money. Instead, Uncle Sam has been renting one from the private sector. Dun & Bradstreet established their Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) as a finance tool for Wall Street. Given that the DUNS already covered so many companies, the federal government opted to use it rather than establishing its own ID system. Which seems to make sense. After all, why reinvent the wheel?

Well, it turns out there are a couple of good reasons. First, the Wall Street wheel doesn’t really fit the government’s needs. It doesn’t have good coverage of non-corporate entities—universities, non-profits, research institutes, public services, and others—which receive money from the federal government. Additionally, the DUNS numbers don’t do a good job of tracking changes in ownership over time. The system was designed to keep track of who owns what right now. But when looking at spending over time, we are more interested in who owned a particular division or company back when it received the federal award.

The licensing fees can also become a barrier to use. In 2014, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the federal agency overseeing stimulus and Hurricane Sandy spending, did not renew the licensing agreement for the DUNS numbers because it was “too expensive.” As a result, the government and the public lost identifier data on billions of dollars spent under the Recovery Act and Hurricane Sandy assistance.

Instead of acknowledging the mismatch, the government has spent years trying to make DUNS work. It wrote it into regulations that DUNS was the only acceptable ID and that recipients of federal funds had to go get a DUNS number if they didn’t have one. This hasn’t really solved any of the underlying problems and  has even made things worse with another problem: multiple IDs for the same entity. People unware that their company or division already has a DUNS number, would go get another one and then someone else would get yet another one later, and on it would go. Some of the large contractors may have 10 or more DUNS numbers.

Now the General Services Administration has proposed amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation to redefine unique entity identifiers and eliminate specific references to DUNS. This is the first step to getting a better ID system. The rule also notes that the federal government “will establish a transparent process for exploring potential alternatives to existing entity identifiers.”

The Project On Government Oversight supports the proposal to end Dun & Bradstreet’s monopoly. While we understand how the federal government came to rely on the DUNS identifiers, the fact remains that the system was not developed to serve as a government identifier and thus fails to serve the needs of the government and the public. It is long past time to replace DUNS with a better system.”