The General Services Administration issued a request for information on the future of entity identification and validation services that could replace the expiring contract with Dun & Bradstreet in 2018.

“The purpose of this procurement is to obtain the necessary contractor support to perform Entity Validation Services for the express purpose of protecting the integrity of the taxpayer’s dollars throughout the federal award process and to enable the GSA Office of Integrated Award Environment to fulfill its mission,” the draft performance work statement said.

The federal government’s use of Dun & Bradstreet’s DUNS number as their procurement identifier has been the subject of some controversy, as industry groups believe that the number’s proprietary nature has led to a more expensive monopoly in the space.

“In the United States, Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., has an effective monopoly on entity identification services in procurement, because the federal government requires every grantee and contractor to register for Dun & Bradstreet’s DUNS Number. This has led to higher costs for the federal government, limited data access for agencies and the public, and even a reduced ability to introduce new competition into the market for identification services,” the Data Foundation and LexisNexis Risk Solutions wrote in a September 2017 report, “Who is Who and What is What? The Need for Universal Entity Identification in the United States.”

The services are now open for greater competition as the government revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations to remove any proprietary references to Dun & Bradstreet and DUNS in 2016.

Groups like the Data Foundation have supported the use of Legal Entity Identifier for entity identification, which provides “a standard, non-proprietary, verified identification code that is managed by a global, federated system.”

Dun & Bradstreet, however, said that they believe the federal government will “continue to find value” in the services they deliver.

“Dun & Bradstreet is pleased to participate in the General Services Administration’s process to fill the government’s need for entity identification and validation services,” a Dun & Bradstreet spokesperson told Federal Times. “The federal government has leveraged the D-U-N-S Number for the past 40 years because it provides critical data and insights into the government’s business partners and programs, including beneficial ownership, company hierarchy linkage and historical financial data, as well as other information that the government needs to effectively manage and run its operations.”

“Industry and other stakeholder engagement is a key success factor in a complex acquisition such as this and responses to the RFI will help us refine the final Request for Proposal/Quotation or Solicitation which is anticipated for release in the second quarter FY2018,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Integrated Award Environment Vicky Niblett. “The team here at GSA is committed to transparently exploring all possible alternatives to meet its need for entity identification and validation services and looks forward to hearing feedback from industry partners and other concerned stakeholders on the draft performance work statement.”

This is the second RFI on identity validation services by GSA, as the first was posted in February 2017. This RFI will be available for review and comment on FedBizOpps until Nov. 20, 2017.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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