Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).

Recent findings, no-bid contracts accounted for 40 percent of the Pentagon's business

The Federal Procurement Data System, maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration through a private contractor, includes transaction-by-transaction records related to federal contracts. The database was substantially changed from FY2003 in the past, only transactions of more than $25,000 were included. In the most recent and complete data available for the 2006 fiscal year, there are more than 3.6 million transactions documented, worth more than $300 billion.

National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) has data starting with the 1979 fiscal year, into the 2008 fiscal year. Updates will occur as the agency updates the data.

The database includes services being performed or items being produced in all U.S. states, as well as U.S. territories and some foreign countries. The list of services or products being contracted is long, and includes: telecommunications, maintenance, office furniture, food products, nursing home care contracts, consulting services, military equipment, computer equipment and software, janitorial services, removal and cleanup of hazardous materials, hotel/motel lodging, construction of troop housing, textile fabrics and fuel products.

Approximately 70 Executive Branch agencies report their procurement contract obligations to the FPDS.
The largest exception is the U.S. Postal Service.
The Legislative and Judicial branches do not report to the FPDS.

The data also lists the contractor performing the service or providing the product, as well as their address and the location where the work is being performed. It's also possible to analyze contracts awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses, veteran or women-owned small businesses, non-profit organizations or foreign companies. The database notes where the contract was subject to various preference programs, such as those under the Small Business Administration's 8(a) program or the Indian/Self-Determination Act. Information from the HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program is also included.

If you receive a state slice for 2004 and forward of this data contractors from your state, and contracts performed in your state.
For past years, it will also include the contracting office in that state.
The new data do not include that information for the contracting offices.

National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting has tried to fix several data problems.
Most notable is the incorrect use of state codes.
For at least Department of Defense records, the data mingle state and country codes in the same field.

This problem has been reported to the GSA and to Global Computer Enterprises.

NICAR addressed this problem in this way:
We created a flag called NICARFLAG. Most of the time, it's blank. If it contains an 'F' that means we have identified a record that likely relates to a non-U.S. company. We did a series of tests to determine that. It is not a guarantee, but our best guess, record by record, of millions of lines of data.

NICAR Story Packs are collections of IRE and NICAR resources designed to help you approach topics with an investigative mindset.
Composed of tipsheets and stories from the Resource Center library, along with databases from NICAR's database library, the  story packs will give you a starting point into any investigation.

 Story No. 21675:
 This study examined $900 billion in defense contracts in the six fiscal years between 1998 and 2003. After assembling Pentagon databases into a single table of 2.2 million records, the study identified and profiled defense department contractors who received at least $100 million between fiscal years 1998 and 2003. Among other findings, no-bid contracts accounted for 40 percent of the Pentagon's business in that time period.

Story No. 19602:
This is a collection of six stories on House Armed Services Committee third-ranking Democrat, Rep. Solomon Ortiz, and his influence on and personal gain from defense federal contracts in his district.

Story No. 22663:
The series examined what happened to the $21.4 billion that President Bush promised to help New York City recover in the aftermath of Sept. 11. The results are disheartening, finding widespread waste, fraud and mismanagement.

Story No. 20429:
 "Some big companies show up in government small-business databases, inflating the apparent contract totals." Larry Margasak of the Associated Press discovered that some of America's largest companies -- including Verizon Communications, AT&T Wireless, Barnes & Noble and Dole Food -- were mistakenly designated "small business" in the government's contractor database. This means "the government has overstated the contract dollars going to small business at a time when the administration of President George W. Bush has been pressing to give smaller firms as much federal work as possible." Moreover, the problem might not be easy to fix, as "once a company's status is mischaracterized, it stays that way through the life of a contract, which can be 20 years." Therefore, "smaller firms the administration intended to help might be frozen out from fresh business by bigger companies."

Example of Tip Sheets:

Tipsheet No. 929:
 This tipsheet provides detailed information about how beat reporters can follow the money in contracts, purchases and grants

Tipsheet No. 1765:
 "This tip sheet looks at some ways to tackle the massive military contracts database, and some pitfalls to avoid along the way."

Tipsheet No. 2642:
This tipsheet is a good guide to investigating the military. Fabey discusses how to take advantage of the military's love of records and find the good investigative stories buried in the databases. He discusses which data analysis programs to use, as well as how to spot the discrepancies that could lead to a story. One very helpful think Fabey does is explain why some things, like sudden increases in the cost of ships, may seems indicative of a good story but are really quite routine for the military.
Record layouts and samples are attached below
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