GSA Offers First Look at Unique IDs to Replace DUNS

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The General Services Administration gives a first look at the new Unique Entity ID, the validation system that will replace the long-standing DUNS number.

By December 2020, every organization—vendors, grantees, coops—doing business with federal agencies will have a new, 12-character identifier, as the government moves away from the proprietary DUNS number.

The DUNS, created by Dun & Bradstreet in 1962, has been the official entity verification number since it was codified in the Federal Acquisition Regulation in 1998. The General Services Administration, which administers the program, opened the contract to new vendors last year.

GSA awarded the new contract in March to Ernst & Young, which will administer the new ID number, including managing the transition from Dun & Bradstreet.

As that transition work begins, GSA released the technical details of the new numbers and set a virtual meeting for July 25 for all interested parties to learn more.

“The U.S. government is moving to a new unique entity identifier for federal awards management, including, but not limited to, contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements, which will ultimately become the primary key to identify entities throughout the federal awarding lifecycle, in, other [Integrated Award Environment] systems, on required forms, and in downstream government systems,” according to a notice posted Wednesday in the Federal Register. “The DUNS will be phased out as the entity identifier for entity record within SAM.”

With the new contractor and schema comes a new name. The DUNS will be replaced by the Unique Entity ID, a 12-character mix of numbers and letters following a set pattern described in the new technical details.

The Unique Entity ID will be three characters longer than the current DUNS numbers and structured in such a way to avoid confusion with the old numbers, as well as tax ID numbers and Commercial and Government Entity, or CAGE, codes. Any systems that currently use the DUNS’ nine-digit format will have to be updated to use the longer ID.

Along with the virtual meeting later this month, GSA has also created a webpage dedicated to the transition.

“Change can be confusing. Change can be frustrating,” the site reads. “We want to make the change easier by sharing information about the coming changes and transition plan.”

The new number also comes with a new process. Rather than going through the vendor to obtain the unique ID, organizations will be able to request a Unique Entity ID at the same time they register with, which is also where they will be able to make changes to their profiles and request assistance.