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Identity and Ownership in Government Contracting

Identity and Ownership
in Government Contracting

M.A. Thomas
Associate Professor, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies

Scholars and practitioners are expressing concerns about the impact of unprecedented levels of government contracting on economic and political concentrations of power and on government accountability and transparency.  Understanding the total organizational structure of government contractors is key to many of their concerns, such as identifying and resolving organizational conflicts of interest.  Until recently, there was little publicly available information on the ownership of government contractors.  However, a government database includes partial information, allowing the first visualizations of these ownership structures by means of a Java program that exports to Netdraw.

Downloads

Thomas, M.A. 2014. "Identifying US Government Contractors: 2014 Update."   This paper updates the discussion of the USG's use of DUNS numbers in light of the GAO Report below.

GAO. 2012. "Government is Analyzing Alternatives for Contractor Identification Numbers." The historical account of how the U.S. government gave Dun & Bradstreet a private monopoly on the collection of information on government contractors, and now pays $154 million to Dun & Bradstreet for use of that information.

Thomas, M.A. 2012. "Identifying Organizational Conflict of Interest: The Information Gap." Defense Acquisition Research Journal.   This is a shorter paper focused on the issue of organizational conflict of interest.

Thomas, M.A. 2011 (revised 2014). "Identity and Ownership in Government Contracting." Working Paper (hosted on SSRN). This is the most detailed paper, including the source and limitations of the data.

The Contractor Network Extractor Software (CNES) takes usaspending.gov data as an input and uses parent linkage data to extract partial contractor networks for analysis in STATA or visualization in Netdraw.  Find the Java JAR here.  Find the Java source code in a zipped folder here.  Find the documentation for the program here.  Right click the links and select "Save as" to download.

Find a zipped file of fiscal year 2014 contractors network data in .csv format here.

Netdraw, used to visualize this data, can be downloaded here.

Caveats

Please be aware that this software is offered *free* under a GNU Public License and so is not subject to any warranty.  Ownership structures can change rapidly and the data is known to be of poor quality.  Matches by name are unreliable.  Accordingly all networks extracted must be independently confirmed by other means. 

Unfortunately, I am unable to offer technical support.  However, please send bug reports or suggestions for upgrades to ofni.srotcartnocgsu@samohtam and I will attempt to address them in future versions.