Over 170k Award Notices Missing From FedBizOpps


As part of our recent procurement initiative, I’ve been playing around with the data present in FedBizOpps, ( or FBO.gov) — it’s the single point of entry for posting all government solicitations, award notices, and various other informational notices regarding government contracts. In short, all contracts awarded must be reported here. What is immediately striking is that the number of awards posted to FedBizOpps does not come even remotely close to the number of awards in USASpending.gov — the database that tracks contract spending. FedBizOpps reports a mere 8,138 contracts awarded for 2012, while USASpending reports 178,375 contract awards for that same year.

Common sense tells us that the number of contracts in each database should match. The fact that they don’t is a mystery at the moment, but the problem could be due to broadly defined exceptions, or even poor reporting and oversight as we’ve seen in other cases involving government reporting. In order to see specifics in the data and run an analysis, I extracted the data into a postgresql database. The data source I used is an XML file on fbo.gov’s FTP server, which seems to include data from the last 13 years.

Award Notices in FBO.gov versus USASpending.gov/FPDS

Year # of Award Notices* # of Awards in USASpending**
1969 11 0
1998 88 0
1999 331 0
2000 146 106,103
2001 126 111,760
2002 415 122,914
2003 632 140,105
2004 612 147,784
2005 727 155,305
2006 887 157,354
2007 1,173 178,229
2008 3,321 194,021
2009 6,778 191,674
2010 6,915 196,278
2011 5,524 190,028
2012 8,138 178,375
2013 3,963 51,992
2014 1 0
2015 1 0
2020 2 0
2069 13 0
9106 1 0
  • *Includes Award, Justification & Approval, and Fair Opportunity Notices
  • **Excludes contracts under $25,000 and those related to Indefinite Delivery Vehicles, since their task orders may not be present in FBO.gov
According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), awards must be posted to FBO.gov within 60 days, but that mandate comes with eight very broad exceptions. And those exceptions could likely be why as many as 90 percent of the contracts we know about thanks to USASpending don’t show up in all the places they should be reported. However, because the number of solicitations that the government issues for bidders on contracts also doesn’t match up between the two databases, there is reason to believe the issue isn’t that simple.

The rule that states government solicitations are supposed to be reported to FedBizOpps doesn’t come with the same broad and numerous exceptions that the rule for contract award reporting does. Because of this, one would assume even more so that the solicitation numbers would match, but they don’t. For 2012, FedBizOpps reported 18,546 solicitation notices issued while USASpending reported 178,375 contracts.

Solicitation Notices in FBO.gov versus USASpending.gov/FPDS

Year # of Solicitation Notices* # of Awards in USASpending**
1998 34 0
1999 448 0
2000 299 106,103
2001 350 111,760
2002 2,843 122,914
2003 3,155 140,105
2004 3,072 147,784
2005 3,268 155,305
2006 3,848 157,354
2007 4,643 178,229
2008 13,120 194,021
2009 10,837 191,674
2010 11,773 196,278
2011 12,056 190,028
2012 18,546 178,375
2013 23,603 51,992
  • *Includes Presolicitation, Combined Synopsis/Solicitation, Amendment to Previous Combined Solicitation, Sources Sought, and Special Notices
  • **Excludes contracts under $25,000 and those related to Indefinite Delivery Vehicles, since their task orders may not be present in FBO.gov
This is a rough cut of the notices, and likely includes some double counting on the FBO side, since it’s including Presolicitation and Amendment Notices. Even with the potential double counting, the numbers aren’t even close. Does that mean that 90% of the contracts in USASpending don’t have open solicitations on FBO.gov, the supposed predominant government source of contract solicitations? I don’t know. The numbers appear so vastly different that it indicates an unreliability in the data to me. We’ve contacted administrators at the GSA and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy but have not heard back yet. Anyone out there know the potential reason(s)?

This is just a first pass at the data, but we’re looking forward into digging into it in more detail. Until then, here is a more detailed version of the data and here is the relevant importer code.

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