Frequently Asked Questions
Why is this website being developed?
It is required by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (Transparency Act).(Back to Top)
What's the purpose of the new legislation?
To provide the public with information about how their tax dollars are spent. Citizens have a right and 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 and much needed transparency to the Federal spending processes. 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)
Will there be an opportunity to provide comment on the requirement for prime contractors to submit information on their subcontracts?
The subcontract pilot program will be implemented through the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). A proposed rule will be issued through the Federal Register and will request comment from all interested parties. All comments will be considered before the final rule is published. However, unless repealed the requirement to report subcontracting data will be fully implemented in 2009. (Back to Top)
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)
Can I browse the data instead of searching?
Transaction data can be browsed by examining summary tables. Users may view table items and browse a summary of the underlying data for that field. For instance, users can see more detailed information on the Overview: Cong. Dist. Recipient table by clicking on an amount listed for as particular congressional district for a given fiscal year. The user will then be able to browse the list of recipients within that congressional district for that year. By changing the level of detail on the information being viewed, users can also browse the details of recipient profiles or each transaction. Additionally, users can expand results displayed from 500 records (which is an established standard for searches in order to increase the site's speed) to all related records by selecting the display all option found at the bottom of each output page. (Back to Top)
What information do I need to find a specific transaction?
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 or recipient, 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. For contracts, click here. For other types of assistance, click here. (Back to Top)
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 USAspending.gov?
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, go to the "advanced search by agency" section and select the desired office or division from the top menu. The selections are listed alphabetically by department/agency and then alphabetically within each department/agency. (Back to Top)
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?
When USAspending.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, USAspending.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 you search is for all fiscal years, the site will display the names of all legislators who held office for at least six months from FY 1999-2006. (Back to Top)
Can I search by characteristics of a contractor (i.e. minority owned, 8A firm, etc.)?
Yes. This search functionality has been added to USAspending.gov as of September 20, 2007. It is available through all of the advanced searches under the "Contracts" tab, and is called "Contractor Type." (Back to Top)
Can I select multiple congressional districts?
No. Currently, users cannot search on multiple congressional districts at the same time. Searches on individual congressional districts can be performed from the sidebar menus or from some of the advanced search pages. (Back to Top)
Can I print out tables? Is there a print-only version?
Yes, USAspending.gov contains a printer-friendly version for all search outputs. The link for the printer-friendly version is available in the upper right hand corner of all static and search pages.(Back to Top)
How can I download data or search results?
Yes. USAspending.gov currently permits the downloading of Advanced search results in two formats; 1) comma-delimited ASCII text and 2) tab-delimited ASCII text. Either format should open easily in various spreadsheet or database programs that users may wish to utilize for further analysis. To download search results simply change the "Output" option in the box in the upper right of the search results. The output defaults to html for viewing in an internet browser. Select either Comma-Delimited ASCII or Tab-Delimited ASCII from the menu and click on the "Go" button. The search results will remain on the page and you will be prompted to select where on your computer you prefer to save the file and will be able to change the file’s name. The file can then be opened directly into a spreadsheet or database program such as Microsoft’s Excel. Please note there will be some programming code that appears at the top and bottom of the file. This data can simply be deleted from the opened file and then the file can be resaved.
If you have a program which accepts data formatted into XML, you can also choose to have your Advanced search results to be displayed in XML format. (Back to Top)
Can I download the standard tables (Top 100 Contractors, Overview by State, etc.)?
No. Currently, USAspending.gov does not allow the results of these tables to be downloaded in delimited or XML format because they are not standard search results. However, we hope to be able to add this function shortly. (Back to Top)
Can I use the browser url address for my search results? Are the search result web addresses permanent or temporary?
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 are not “permanent” in the sense that the information displayed will never change and some addresses may even stop working as updates to the databases change where information may be listed. However, because USAspending.gov is updated approximately twice a year, links to search results should remain active for at least six months. (Back to Top)
Why do some of listings of zero dollars ($0.0) show records for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when clicked on?
Some tables display amounts rounded to the nearest million (and in some cases, billion). Contract amounts that are not large enough to be rounded-up to $1 million (or $1 billion) will be displayed as zero ($0.0). However, not all zero dollar ($0.0) listings contain entries - some are actually zero. Typically, the display of amounts as zero ($0.0) only occurs in results displayed at Low Level of Detail. However, all records are present and the actual amounts and records can be seen when the zero ($0.0) listing is clicked on or if the level of detail for the results is increased. USAspending.gov has not removed or deleted any data. (Back to Top)
How are joint ventures and partial ownerships of facilities handled?
Sometimes contract and grant recipients are partially owned by more than one company. USAspending.gov treats these joint ventures as entirely separate entities with no connection to the original companies. Contracts or federal assistance 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 stand alone company. (Back to Top)
How are contract and assistance transactions assigned to fiscal years?
For contracts, the fiscal year used on USAspending.gov is the fiscal year of the file that the individual award record was supplied in. In other words, the federal contracts database provides awards records grouped into files by fiscal year, and these are the fiscal years assigned to the data records.
For Federal assistance, each record has a fiscal year plus quarter data field, and this is used unless it is indicated that the record is a correction for a previous fiscal year and quarter. In that case, the previous fiscal year and quarter that the record corrects is used to determine the fiscal year for the record.
Contract records fiscal years are supposed to be based on Award/Signed Date. For basic agreements for which there is no funding on the basic document, the award date is the date mutually agreed upon by the contracting officer and the contractors. Therefore, the government generally should base its assignment of fiscal years on the award/signed date. However, USAspending.gov does not examine the Award/Signed Date of records to check this process.
For federal assistance, the award date refers to the date the funds were obligated. For awards that are funded at a future date, the award date is the date signed by the contracting officer. This award date is supposed to be the date used to assign the fiscal year by the government. However, again, USAspending.gov does not examine the award date to check this process.(Back to Top)
Can I find contracts and federal assistance that extend over multiple years?
Maybe. USAspending.gov tracks transactions rather than individual contracts or grants, and, therefore, the website will permit users to determine if a transaction is related to a multi-year award or not. Please note, however, that “multi-year contracts” is not currently available as a search criterion in any of the advanced searches. This information can only be found by examining data on individual grants or contracts using either the Extensive or Complete Level of Detail options. (Back to Top)
To which year are multi-year grants or contracts assigned?
While multi-year contracts and grants exist, the USAspending.gov data tracks transactions rather than totals for individual contracts or grants. One contract or grant 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 or grant that started years earlier. (Back to Top)
How can I report a factual error in USAspending.gov?
We hope to provide a mechanism to report errors or inaccuracies in government data found in USAspending.gov directly to the appropriate government office in the future. Until that function is available, please feel free to use the feedback form to report such matters to us, and we will help put you in touch with the appropriate government agency.
Why is my name or company listed on USAspending.gov if I never received any federal contracts/grants/loans?
The most likely answer is there was an error in the data government is reporting to the public about federal spending. We will always double-check USAspending.gov with the original government source upon request, but so long as the information matches the government source, we cannot change any information in USAspending.gov. If the government changes their data, we will update USAspending.gov based on the most recent government data that is publicly available.
It's also possible you received assistance in the form of a loan or insurance payment that was either guaranteed or insured by the federal government. It may be that these funds were not sent directly from the federal government to you, but because they involve federal resources or liabilities, they are included in government databases. (Back to Top)
Where can I find out more information about federal contracts and assistance spending beyond what is contained on USAspending.gov?
USAspending.gov contains all the information published by the Federal government in the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) and Federal Awards and Assistance Data System (FAADS) databases and other agency specific data sources.
What's the difference between the contracting agency field and the funding agency field in USAspending.gov?
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)
Why are some summary tables showing a $0.0 value for Fiscal Year 2008 while they show percentage values when the “Switch to Percentages” option is clicked?
In some cases, the dollar value threshold of some summary tables is too high for the current values to display in the table. In some cases, the table threshold may be in the billions of dollars, while the data loaded in the application to date may only be in the thousands or tens of thousands by agency or recipient. (Back to Top)
Why do the amounts in USASpending.gov keep changing, including for fiscal years that have already been closed?
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 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 USASpending.gov. These modifications can continue to occur for many years after the fiscal year in which the contract, grant, or loan obligation has ended.
In addition, agencies are working aggressively to add additional information to the website, and in some instances to display a field that has been submitted but not displayed (such as the loan face value), remove information that was insufficient or submitted in an old format. This may cause changes in the totals reported for different activities from period to period.
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)
Why do the numbers in a report not match with similar information obtained from the source systems feeding this site?
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, but must report into USASpending.gov. This causes difficulties in reconciliation. We will soon publish information on USASpending.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 comparing summary reports across systems. A detailed summary of the standardization and categorization performed during data load on this site is presented in the ‘About the Data’ page. (Back to Top)
What does Contract Description of ‘Unavailable’ mean when detailed level of information is displayed for a contract?
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)
How can I have my name/company/information removed from your website?
If your name/company/information is reported incorrectly, USASpending.gov will make every effort to fix errors. First, however, the error must be confirmed by the agency that reported it. (Back to Top)
Is there any support available to USAspending.gov users?
The best method to report a problem or ask a question on USAspending.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.
If you have questions about USAspending.gov, call 1 (800) FED INFO (1-800 333-4636) (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday - Friday).
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)
Is USASpending.gov accessible for people for with disabilities?
USASpending.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 USASpending.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 USASpending.gov’s accessibility for individuals with disabilities in forthcoming updates. (Back to Top)