General Information

Data Questions

Support

General Information

Q. Why is this website being developed?

A. It is required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (Transparency Act). The Small Business dashboard provides Contract information specific to Small Business. In addition, the Presidential Memorandum on the Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses, which was signed on April 26, 2010, requires that "within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Assistant to the President and Chief Technology Officer and the Federal Chief Information Officer, in coordination with the Task Force, shall develop a website that illustrates the participation of small businesses, including those owned by women, minorities, socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, and service-disabled veterans of our Armed Forces, in Federal contracting". This effort will enhance transparency and help Federal agencies and the public assess the government's performance in meeting statutory goals for small business contracting. (Back to Top)

Q. What is the purpose of the new legislation?

A. To provide the public with information about how their tax dollars are spent. Citizens have a right and a need to understand where tax dollars are spent. Collecting data about the various types of contracts, grants, loans, and other types of spending in our government will provide a broader picture of the Federal spending processes, and will help to meet the need of greater transparency. The ability to look at contracts, grants, loans, and other types of spending across many agencies, in greater detail, is a key ingredient to building public trust in government and credibility in the professionals who use these agreements. (Back to Top)

Q. What is a fiscal year (FY)?

A. The Federal government uses a defined 12 month period for its own accounting purposes as a financial or fiscal year. The Federal fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the following calendar year. For instance, fiscal year 2007 is 10/1/2006 - 9/30/2007. (Back to Top)

Q. Can I browse the data instead of searching?

A. Yes, the data can be browsed in several ways without using the search function. The user can click on any of the agencies under the "By Agency" section on the home page to obtain the summary information for that agency for Small Business Contracts. The user can also click on the "Show only Recovery Act Contracts" to toggle to the Recovery Act Contracts data for Small Business Contracts. The user can also download detailed data feeds through the Data Feeds page. The feeds can come in Comma Separated Values (CSV), Tabular format (TAB), Extensible Markup Language (XML), or Atom Syndication format (ATOM). After downloading the preferred data type, users can utilize their own analysis tools to browse and display the data. (Back to Top)

Q. What information do I need to find a specific transaction?

A. There are several ways to search, isolate, or identify a specific transaction. The most reliable way is to conduct a search using the name of the contractor, together with any information you might have regarding date of the transaction, the awarding agency/program, or using any other searchable variable for which you have information. The most common search variables are available via the advanced search include:

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Q. I cannot find a specific agency or government division (e.g., National Endowment for the Arts, Railroad Retirement Board, Tennessee Valley Authority). Are they missing from SmallBusinessDashboard.gov?

A. No, smaller agencies and administrations within the federal government are combined in summary tables under the "All other agencies" category. In order to search for those offices and administrations, type the agency name in the search bar, and then after running the search, select the "Advanced Search" tab and select the "All other agencies" in the "Funding Agency" drop down list. You may then enter any additional search criteria and run the search. (Back to Top)

Q. Some of the congressional district search options list name(s) of representatives. Is that the current legislator or the representative who was in office when the money was appropriated?

A. When SmallBusinessDashboard.gov lists one name associated with a congressional district, that person is the current office holder for that district. However, even when displaying the most current data on federal spending and the current office holder, the legislator was not necessarily in Congress when the money was appropriated or spent. Sometimes when multiple years are selected or when a new legislator is elected, SmallBusinessDashboard.gov will list two or more names of legislators for a single congressional district, so long as each previous legislator has served for at least six months. Like with individual names, these names do not necessarily mean those legislators were in office when the money was appropriated or spent. They are given for reference purposes only. If your search is for a single fiscal year, the site will display along with the Congressional District the names of those legislators who held office in the district for at least 6 months during that fiscal year and the one before it. If your search is for all fiscal years, the site will display the names of all legislators who held office for at least six months for those respective fiscal years. (Back to Top)

Q. Can I select multiple congressional districts?

A. No. Currently, users cannot search on multiple congressional districts at the same time. Searches on individual congressional districts can be performed from the Advanced Search page under the Location heading, using the Congressional District drop down menu. (Back to Top)

Q. How can I download data or search results?

A. You can download data sets from the "Data Feeds" page. SmallBusinessDashboard.gov currently permits the downloading of data feeds in four formats, Comma Separated Values (CSV), Tab delimited format (TAB), Extensible Markup Language (XML), or Atom Syndication format (ATOM). CSV and TAB formats should easily be opened in various spreadsheet or database programs that users may wish to use for further analysis. Advanced users with programs that accept data formatted into XML can use this feature as well. To download data, simply navigate to the "Data Feeds" page, select the criteria that you would like to apply, and select the type of data feed. (Back to Top)

Q. Can I use the browser URL address for my search results? Are the search result web addresses permanent or temporary?

A. Yes. The web addresses of search results and standard tables can be forwarded and linked to for easy use by others. The addresses are very long because the address represents the exact search criteria used and the level of detail selected. The addresses for search results may or may not be "permanent" depending on the type of search executed and some addresses may even stop working as updates to the database change where the information is stored. The data on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov is regularly refreshed as agencies submit new information. (Back to Top)

Q. What has the Administration done to improve the reporting of Agency information?

A. OMB Memo M-09-19 was issued as the first step to addressing these issues. Conversion to electronic reporting will assist in identifying problematic source systems and therefore eliminate potential intermediary introduced errors. (Back to Top)

Data Questions

Q. Why does SmallBusinessDashboard.gov have different figures than in the remainder of USAspending.gov?

A. The Small Business Dahsboard may contain figures that are different from those in the remainder of USAspending.gov. The primary reason for these differences is that small business goaling data incorporates certain "exclusions" from both the numerator and the denominator when calculating government wide and agency small business achievement (see below for a full list of the types of exclusions).
The goaling baseline includes only prime contracts awarded using appropriated funds covered by the FAR. The FAR requirements and the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation (FPDS-NG) are only applicable to contracts awarded using appropriated funds. (Back to Top)

Q. What are the specific categories of spending excluded from the Small Business Dashboard?

A. There are several categories of exclusions not included in the baseline because they are not covered by the goaling program. Examples include:

Q. What are the small business goaling reports?

A. The Small Business Goaling Report is released by the SBA annually as a measure of the government's achievement in small business procurement. It accounts for all exclusions mentioned above. The report is produced by the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation (FPDS-NG) - the authoritative government source for procurement data.
In addition to government-wide goal achievements, the Small Business Goaling Report displays each agency's small business and socio-economic achievements versus their individual goals (where appropriate). Each of the 24 CFO agencies received a scorecard from SBA that measures the agency's achievement.
Small Business Procurement scorecards provide an assessment of federal achievement in prime contracting to small businesses. Further, they measure the progress that agencies are making to ensure small business opportunities remain an integral part of the acquisition process across the government. The scorecard serves as an internal control and monitoring device to ensure that (1) Federal agencies reach their small business, socio-economic and subcontracting goals, (2) accurate and transparent contracting data is reported and (3) agency-specific progress is maintained.
The SBA does not collect the goaling achievement data directly from agencies. Public Law 93-400 requires OFPP to establish a system for collecting, developing and disseminating procurement data which takes into account the needs of Congress, the Executive Branch and the public sector. The Government Services Administration operates the Federal Procurement Data System Next Generation (FPDS-NG) on behalf of OFPP, as part of the Integrated Acquisition Environment. FPDS-NG data is collected in real time, and is the official record of Federal procurement that SBA uses to monitor agencies' achievement. (Back to Top)

Q. Where can I find the official small business historical goaling reports?

A. The official small business historical goaling reports are available on the SBA website. The historical reports are available for the period FY 2005 to FY 2008.

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Q. Why does each agency have its own goal?

A. Agency goals and government-wide goals are not necessarily identical. The statutory goals are government-wide, meaning that the percentages are based on the aggregate of all Federal procurement. Each Federal department and agency has different program missions and procurement needs. The Small Business Act states "Notwithstanding the government-wide goal, each agency shall have an annual goal that presents, for that agency, the maximum practical opportunity for small business concerns..." (15 U.S.C. 644 §15(g)(1)). The SBA works with each agency to establish goals that both provide small businesses the maximum opportunity to win contracts given that agency's procurement needs and meet the government-wide goals.
In conjunction with determining individual agency goals, SBA must ensure that the weighted average goals of the agencies meets or exceeds the statutory government wide small business goal of 23%. SBA must also ensure that the weighted average of the individual agency goals meet or exceed the statutory government wide goal for Small Disadvanated Businesses of 5%, Women-owned small businesses of 5%, Service Disabled Veteran-owned small businesses of 3% and HUBZone businesses of 3%. For these four socio-economic categories, SBA has instituted the policy that each agency will have the government-wide statutory goal. (Back to Top)

Q. How are each agencies' goals determined?

A. SBA negotiates with each agency mutually acceptable prime and subcontract goals for each small business category. SBA must ensure that the mutually established cumulative goals for all agencies meet or exceed the government-wide 23 percent small business goal. SBA cannot accept an individual agency's goal until in the aggregate, the government-wide goal is established. Subsequently, SBA compiles and analyzes agencies' achievements against their individual goals and reports the results to the President.
The Small Business Act states "Notwithstanding the government-wide goal, each agency shall have an annual goal that presents, for that agency, the maximum practical opportunity for small business concerns..." (15 U.S.C. 644 §15(g)(1)). The SBA works with each agency to establish goals that both provide small businesses the maximum opportunity to win contracts given that agency's procurement needs and meet the government-wide goals.
Individual agency small business goals for FY 2010 can be found at www.sba.gov. SBA must also ensure that the weighted average of the individual agency goals meet or exceed the statutory government wide goal for Small Disadvanated Businesses of 5%, Women-owned small businesses of 5%, Service Disabled Veteran-owned small businesses of 3% and HUBZone businesses of 3%. For these four socio-economic categories, SBA has instituted the policy that each agency will have the government-wide statutory goal. (Back to Top)

Q. Why doesn't every Federal agency have small business contracting goals?

A. All of the 24 CFO Agencies have Small Business goals, these 24 agencies make up 99% of all Federal Spending. (Back to Top)

Q. Is the data that is available the "official" small business goaling data?

A. No, agencies must certify their data at the beginning of the calendar year to OFPP. This certification affirms that the data is complete and accurate. SBA then receives a copy of the database and analysies the records to ensure greater accuracy. Once this process, SBA has the database frozen to produce the official Small Business Goaling report. Since FPDS-NG is dynamic, records may be changed at a later date and result in goaling data that is not consistent with the official Small Business Goaling Report. (Back to Top)

Q. How are joint ventures and partial ownerships of facilities handled?

A. Sometimes contracts are partially owned by more than one company. SmallBusinessDashboard.gov treats these joint ventures as entirely separate entities with no connection to the original companies. Contracts for these partnerships are totaled and tracked as a group. Often, name searches will also produce listings of these joint ventures along with a listing of the standalone company. (Back to Top)

Q. How are contract transactions assigned to fiscal years?

A. The fiscal year used on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov is the fiscal year in which the contract action was signed. (Back to Top)

Q. Can I find contracts that extend over multiple years?

A. Yes. SmallBusinessDashboard.gov tracks transactions rather than individual contracts. Therefore, the website will permit users to determine if a transaction is related to a multi-year award or not. If you have the procurement ID or the federal award identified you can use the search function to pull all actions associated with these identifiers. With this you can track all the modifications/changes made over multiple years. (Back to Top)

Q. To which year are multi-year contracts assigned?

A. While multi-year contracts exist, the SmallBusinessDashboard.gov data tracks transactions rather than totals for individual contracts. One contract can have many transactions related to it, representing additional disbursements, extensions, or modifications. Transactions all have a specific date upon which they took place and are assigned to the appropriate fiscal year based on that date, even if they were part of a multi-year contract that started years earlier. (Back to Top)

Q. How can I report a factual error in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov?

A. To provide a report of errors or inaccuracies in government data found in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov, please feel free to use the Contact Us form to report such matters to us, or you can contact the designated Senior Accountable Official for the respective agency. (Back to Top)

Q. Why is my name or company listed on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov if I never received any federal contracts?

A. The most likely answer is that there was an error in the data that the government is reporting to the public about federal spending. We will always double-check SmallBusinessDashboard.gov with the original government source upon request, but so long as the information matches the government source, we cannot change any information in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov. If the government changes their data, we will update SmallBusinessDashboard.gov based on the most recent government data that is publicly available. (Back to Top)

Q. What is the difference between the contracting agency field and the funding agency field in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov?

A. Occasionally, the federal government will issue a contract through one office or agency, but a different office or agency will provide the funding for that contract. In these cases, the office or agency that issues the contract will be listed as the "contracting agency," while the one that provides the funding will be listed as the "funding agency". (Back to Top)

Q. Why do the amounts in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov keep changing, including for fiscal years that have already been closed?

A. Providing accurate and timely information requires regular updates to posted data, to reflect newly available information and revisions to previous awards. As the government enters into a contract, grant or loan, the full cost of that obligation is often recorded immediately along with other important dollar values when applicable (e.g., FPDS-NG contains the contract ceiling amount, the contract value at time of award, and the amount of funds being placed on the contract at that moment. Loan records give the face value and the subsidy amount.) Modifications may change the amount of an obligation recorded in a prior period and which has already been reflected on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov. These modifications can continue to occur for many years after the fiscal year in which the contract, grant, or loan obligation was initiated.
In addition to the date of the last data load displayed on the left navigation pane of every window, and a detailed status of data timeliness and data quality by agency on the Data Quality tab, many more efforts are underway to make data changes more apparent to users. (Back to Top)

Q. Why do the numbers in a report not match with similar information obtained from the source systems feeding this site?

A. There are a number of challenges in reconciling reports from these systems, mostly as a result of differences in the timing of updates. We are working to resolve these differences, and will soon publish information which will help users understand how these differences impact them.

In addition, some agencies are exempted from reporting into some systems, such as FPDS-NG, but must report into SmallBusinessDashboard.gov. This causes difficulties in reconciliation. We will soon publish information on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov giving users a single reference for what information is available through which source.

In the meantime, when comparing reports please make sure that the time frame for transactions, type of transactions and the type of processing performed by the system is consistent when across systems. A detailed summary of the standardization and categorization performed during data load on this site is presented in the "Learn" page. (Back to Top)

Q. What does Contract Description of "Unavailable" mean when detailed level of information is displayed for a contract?

A. Contract description of "Unavailable" indicates that the description has been temporarily masked because Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as the Social Security Number about an individual was included in this field. Agency submitting the data is currently in the process of removing the PII information and the description will then be made available without the PII information. (Back to Top)

Q. When there is a data mismatch, what is being displayed?

A. There are various areas where the data collection process has multiple options for agencies to provide similar information (For example, for location information for States, agencies can provide FIPS codes, State Names, Zip codes, or Postal Abbreviations). This is necessary to accommodate the various different systems agencies have for collecting and reporting this information to SmallBusinessDashboard. All information collected by SmallBusinessDashboard will be available in the "Complete Details" pages for each transaction. However to avoid double counting, SmallBusinessDashboard ignores some of the mismatched information when producing visualization and aggregate spending amounts. Below are sample prioritizations for when we receive mismatched information. The order below is how we determine which data to prioritize over other data when there is a mismatch:

State for Locations:

  1. State FIPS code
  2. Zip codes
  3. State Name

Congressional Districts for Locations:

  1. Congressional District Code
  2. Zip + 4

Program Source Names

  1. Program Source Title provided
  2. Budget Account Title derived via TAS number found on OMB’s SF-133
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Q. Why are the paid out amounts on Recovery greater than those found on SmallBusinessDashboard?

A. Recovery.gov currently tracks various programs previously exempted from SmallBusinessDashboard (specifically programs to individuals or that are less than $25,000 per action). With OMB memo M-09-19, those exemptions where removed. However, because agencies had removed the detailed reporting capabilities due to the previous exemptions, they have requested time to re-enable these capabilities. Per M-09-19, agencies have until Oct. 1, 2010 to report all financial assistance spending. (Back to Top)

Q. What spending information is missing from SmallBusinessDashboard?

A. Per M-09-19, by the end of FY 2010 all spending should be reported to SmallBusinessDashboard. Agencies are currently in the process of developing ramp-up plans. Currently there are two major agencies that have significant data (hundreds of billions of dollars) not being reported, SSA (Social Security/Disability benefits) and HHS (Medicare benefits). As these were benefits to individuals and not required by FFATA, agencies did not report this information prior to M-09-19. M-09-19 requests that agencies report all federal spending and provide an aggregate mechanism for reporting benefits to individuals and amounts less than $25,000.

The following information is currently not required to be in SmallBusinessDashboard. Once we have addressed the existing data completeness issues (specified in M-09-19), we intend to work with agencies to include these in SmallBusinessDashboard.gov (this list is mostly derived from the CFFR defined list of items that don.t use the FAADs process for reporting):

  1. Salary and Wages data for Federal employees
  2. Federal retirement and disability benefits (including Military and Veteran benefits)
  3. Various tax credits
  4. Interest on National Debt
  5. Contracts excluded by the FAR (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2003/octqtr/48cfr1.104.htm)
  6. Contracts for various agencies not required to follow the FAR (USPS, FAA, BPA, TVA, etc.)
  7. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)
  8. Pension payments by PBGC
  9. Federal forfeiture funds and duties
  10. Various Loan and Insurance programs
  11. Utilities
  12. Leases
  13. Inter-government transfers
  14. Various trainings (not acquired via contracts/grants)
  15. Non-appropriated fund expenditures
  16. Travel not covered by SmartPay
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Support

Q. How can I have my name/company/information removed from your website?

A. If your name/company/information is reported incorrectly, SmallBusinessDashboard.gov will make every effort to fix errors. First, however, the error must be confirmed by the agency that reported it. (Back to Top)

Q. Is there any support available to SmallBusinessDashboard.gov users?

A. The best method to report a problem or ask a question on SmallBusinessDashboard.gov is to use our feedback form. The question or message will be forwarded to the best person to handle the matter, and they will respond as quickly as possible. For questions about the federal government, visit USA.gov or call 1 (800) FED INFO (1-800-333-4636) (8 am-8 pm ET Monday-Friday). (Back to Top)

Q. Is SmallBusinessDashboard.gov accessible for people with disabilities?

A. SmallBusinessDashboard.gov complies with all of the automatic checkpoints of the Section 508 Accessibility Guidelines, and has been manually verified for nearly all of the manual checkpoints.

This compliance has been tested using Watchfire WebXACT program. Because SmallBusinessDashboard.gov uses dynamically generated Web pages, it is not possible to test literally every page. However, each dynamically generated output style can be tested. We hope to continue to upgrade SmallBusinessDashboard.gov's accessibility for individuals with disabilities in forthcoming updates. (Back to Top)