A necessary evil is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “something unpleasant that must be accepted to achieve a particular result.”  Yes, a Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S®) number is just that, unpleasant.  You must have one to do business with the federal government.

From the D&B website:

Created in 1962, the Data Universal Numbering System or D-U-N-S® Number is D&B’s copyrighted, proprietary means of identifying business entities on a location-specific basis.  Assigned and maintained solely by D&B, this unique nine-digit identification number has been assigned to over 100 million businesses worldwide.

The D-U-N-S® Number is widely used by both commercial and federal entities and was adopted as the standard business identifier for federal electronic commerce in October 1994.  The D-U-N-S Number® was also incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) in April 1998 as the Federal Government’s contractor identification code for all procurement-related activities.

A real mix of commercial and federal government usage is what this appears to be.  To do business with the federal government, you have to register with a commercial company first to obtain an identification number.  This process has never made sense to me and every time I have had to register either a joint venture or new company it is painful. 

It used to be worse.  Back in the day it could take three weeks to get a D-U-N-S®.  If you had any trouble, it amounted to talking to about ten different people before you got to the department.  Then you were placed on their sales list for them to try and sell their products and services to you. 

According to this article, “Is GSA stuck with proprietary numbering system?” the current contract for D-U-N-S® numbers is an eight-year, sole-source contract awarded to Dun & Bradstreet in 2010. The contract now totals up to $154 million, according to GAO.

Noted in this 2012 letter sent to Senator Ben Nelson (D–NE) the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified challenges.  I believe D&Bhas a monopoly on the numbering system for the federal government.  Regardless you will need a D-U-N-S before you can register your business in sam.govto obtain your Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code.  The link to establish a D-U-N-S® number for the federal government is http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform, and you will need the following:
  • Personal Point of Contact Information (Name, Email, Address, Phone)
  • Business Information (Legal Name, Address, Structure, Date Started, Ownership Demographic

The last time I got a D-U-N-S®I was in a hurry.  They do not notify you that you have received a number.  You will need to call them.  It took four days.  Once you have the number, you can proceed to register your business in sam.gov.  It is part of the process to start doing government contracting.  Yes, a necessary evil but in government contracting you must get used to doing exactly what is needed to obtain work.