USAspending.gov: A Tool for Understanding Government Sales

Posted by Robert Kelly on Feb 16, 2011 9:02:00 AM

Each year, the President proposes an annual budget for how the government’s resources should be allocated among its many departments, agencies, and programs.  Congress then appropriates funds through legislation.  Departments and agencies then award much of these appropriations to private businesses that provide the products and services they need in the form of contracts, grants, loans, etc.  While this process is simple enough to teach in middle school civics classrooms around the country, keeping track of, and understanding where and by whom the government’s vast resources are ultimately spent can be a complex task.


USAspending.gov is a powerful web-based tool designed to provide transparency in this government spending process.  While the political purpose of such a website may be to provide the voting citizenry a better sense of what their tax dollars are funding, the full potential of this tool is best realized by a different type of citizen.  Corporate citizens contracting, or seeking to contract, with federal government agencies can use USAspending to identify federal business opportunities.

These firms can study detailed USAspending data, charts and graphs that provide a complete picture of which government entities are contracting in their industry, as well as where, to which firms, and the value of contracts being awarded.

USAspending Data

In its most basic application, USAspending.gov provides summary data on amounts and types of spending.  These statistics can be displayed by agency, by prime awardee and by location.  Found under the “Summaries” tab, this information can help your firm identify which agencies and departments are contracting in your area.  Furthermore, it can help identify subcontracting opportunities with prime contractors in your area and industry.

USASpending Search Capabilities

USAspending offers several search functions for those with a better idea of what they are looking for.  The search capability could be used, for instance, to find out what your firm’s competitors are winning.  A search of the company’s DUNS number (more information on DUNS numbers) can help assess your firm’s success in government contracting relative to the competition. 

Federal Marketing Strategy

The Prime Award Advanced Search and Sub-award Advanced Search options help identify and zero-in on potential business partners.  These advanced searches allow you to specify numerous characteristics including

    • spending type,
    • agency,
    • location,
    • award amount,
    • completion status,
    • project description, and
    • NAICS code.

The “popular requests” information panel on the USAspending homepage can help you find information on topics that are trending at the moment.  For instance, if you believe your firm could contribute to the Gulf oil spill disaster recovery efforts, this section provides information on the contracts, contracting agencies, and prime contractors working to restore the Gulf Coast region.  This information can be further sorted by

    • product/service code,
    • principle NAICS description, and
    • contract completion status. 

In sum, your firm can identify which agencies are contracting directly for products it offers, as well as subcontracting opportunities on existing contracts in its industry.

USAspending Trends and Reports

USAspending.gov also offers information on spending trends on their homepage that gives an historical perspective on government contracting.  Fortunately, given the website’s complexity, there is a substantial FAQ section that should help minimize any learning curve. 

To maximize your firm’s federal business opportunities, be sure to use USAspending.gov to identify which agencies are buying in your area and industry.

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Topics: Government Sales, Maximizing Federal Sales

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