recommended reading

Sunshine advocates criticize government contractor database

Organizations that promote government openness are giving low marks to the new public version of a database that tracks government contractors' performance.

The chief strike against the new version of the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System is that it only includes information on contractor performance posted after April 15, when the system went live.

So searches on companies with past scandals yield no juicy results. There is no entry for Blackwater Worldwide, now called Xe Services, for instance, despite the fact that six guards working for the security contractor were charged in federal court for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Watchdogs are also complaining that the website itself is confusingly put together, difficult to navigate, and filled with unnecessary security requirements and warnings.

One watchdog group, the Sunlight Foundation, went so far as to say the FAPIIS site "may be the worst government website we've ever seen," in a particularly virulent blog post.

"It's unclear to me whether the programmers responsible for this interface had ever actually used the Web or simply had it described to them," the post's author, Sunlight staffer Tom Lee, quipped bitterly. "Either way, whoever built this should be embarrassed. Whoever managed the project should be embarrassed. Whoever signed off on delivery should be embarrassed!"

A spokesperson for the General Services Administration, which developed and manages the public site, declined to comment on the criticisms Tuesday.

Getting to the FAPIIS site itself requires several links -- two of which produced security warnings on a Nextgov laptop. Users must also fill out a new "captcha" verification, typing in a string of letters that are difficult to decipher against a black-and-white grid background, with each contractor search.

Searches often yield dozens of results for the same contractor, at least one for each division or subsidiary, and often multiple results for different contracts held by the same subsidiary, making it extremely time consuming to research a company's full record.

The long-sought public version of the contractor performance database was inserted into the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

The site is designed to list past findings of contractors' liability in administrative, civil and criminal proceedings, and whether they've ever defaulted on a federal contract, or been suspended or disbarred from contracting with the federal government.

The Project on Government Oversight noted that the site's search function requires four letters of a company's name, making it impossible to find information on Xe, IBM or KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary, if the researcher doesn't know those companies' business identification numbers, another search option.

" 'Lockheed Martin' produced a list of more than 300 companies, approximately 200 of which were named 'LOCKHEED MARTIN CORPORATION' but with different DUNS numbers," the open government group went on to complain. DUNS numbers are nine-digit identification numbers the federal government requires for a company to receive grant or contract money.

"The rest were various Lockheed subsidiaries, some of which were also listed multiple times with the same name (give or take a comma, period, 'Inc.,' or 'Corp.') but different DUNS numbers," the group said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.