Government spending millions on contract to assign numbers to contractors

The federal government is looking to break the stranglehold one company has on the use of — numbers.

Uncle Sam is currently spending millions of dollars on a contract with Dun & Bradstreet, which runs a database that assigns numbers to other contractors. The growing cost of that program was documented last week in a letter from the Government Accountability Office to Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. The office found the government is now spending roughly $19 million a year on the system that cost just $1 million annually one decade ago.

What’s the point of this system? The government handles more than $1 trillion a year in contracts and grants. Washington needs to assign a unique number to each one of them, to track all the businesses and other entities it deals with. For more than three decades, it has turned to one company — Dun & Bradstreet — for its numbering needs.

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