Raw Data, Real Data

Making sense of federal procurement information.

These days, there are more sources of information about federal procurement spending available than ever. Go to USAspending.gov, for example, and you're just a click away from a wealth of data on government contracts and grants. So why continue to do an annual special issue of a magazine featuring the top contractors?

There are a lot of reasons. We think there's still value in an annual snapshot of the biggest companies serving the federal market.

And we use the rankings as a jumping-off point for a series of articles that explore the latest developments in several procurement categories and profile the government's top-purchasing agencies.

But there's another reason we think there is value in the numbers that we publish. You could go to USAspending.gov and search by contractor for, say, Boeing Co. As of mid-July, you'd get 16 results, ranging from Boeing North American Inc. to Boeing Satellite Systems International Inc. But they're all elements of the same company. To get an accurate picture of what Boeing receives from the federal government, you'd have to add them all together. You also would have to account for all the joint ventures companies like Boeing are involved in, which might be listed under entirely different names.

That's where the wizards at our data-processing partner, Eagle Eye Publishers Inc. of Fairfax, Va., come in. They comb through the data each year for us, making sense of all the variables that come into play to generate the lists that appear in this issue.

The data they analyze are contained in the General Services Administration's Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation for fiscal 2007. The system gets its information from contracting reports filed by agencies. Most vendors in the rankings are private, for-profit U.S. companies. Universities, nonprofit institutions and foreign-owned firms also are represented.

Eagle Eye analyzes the data to generate lists of parent companies, and outlays to subsidiaries are "rolled up" to the parent.

For joint ventures, we assign each partner an equal portion of payments made under the contract in fiscal 2007. Mergers and acquisitions are not reflected in the listings unless they became final before the fiscal year ended.

Of course, there's much more data available than we're able to print in one issue of Government Executive. To find out more, or learn more about how these charts are generated, contact Eagle Eye Publishers at (703) 359-8980, on the Web at www.eagleeyeinc.com, or via e-mail at info@eagleeyeinc.com.

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