FPDS, or the Federal Procurement Data System, is the central real-time database for government contracting transactions. The system is meant to ensure trust and transparency in federal spending. FPDS is the most comprehensive and definitive source for government contracting transparency data, although it does not contain all awards (we’ll touch on that below). The award information in FPDS is used by the President, Congress, GAO and other agencies to form policy decisions and to report on trends.
Although the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) website has limited reporting capability, it is free to use by the public. It’s worth noting that the FPDS database is a very large data set, both in terms of depth (upwards of 50M records) and breadth (more than 200 data elements). There’s also a fair amount of complexity in how transactions are linked to one another in the case of task order awards and blanket purchase agreements.
It’s best to think of FPDS as a giant checkbook for the federal government. Each transaction is simply a payment or modification from an account to a payee. In addition to basic transaction information like amount, account and awardee, there are many meta data elements such as socioeconomic indicators, set-aside preferences, awardee registration details and much more.
The comprehensive transaction information is structured in xml format, defined on the FPDS website.
Yes, FPDS archives can be found at fpds.gov in zip format. Due to the size of the archives, it can be cumbersome to process/import archives into a local database. For active research, we recommend using a platform like Federal Compass. We import transactions from FPDS daily, so you’re always up to date with the latest award and spending trends.
Yes, at the direction of the OFPP (Office of Federal Procurement Policy), GSA requires each department and agency be certified annually in the completeness and accuracy of its data.
USASpending is a secondary source, and uses data reported by FPDS to populate its database and reports. Although USASpending has some convenient reporting features, its data is not real-time and we have seen many instances of missing data in USASpending. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act requires USASpending to update its data every 30 days.
There's reason to be excited for CIO-SP4. With new tracks and more initial awards than CIO-SP3, spending on CIO-SP4 is anticipated to surpass to CIO-SP3 trends. We've put together an eBook focused entirely on understanding CIO-SP3 trends ahead of CIO-SP4. Lessons learned from CIO-SP3? You are more likely to fail than to succeed. If you’re determined to pursue CIO-SP4, preparation is necessary to position yourself for success.
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written by Jim Sherwood, published 02/18/2020