Fedbizopps: the US government's searchable database of defense-contractor opportunities

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sez, "The government often makes itself more accessible to businesses than the general public. For Sunshine Week, we compiled this guide to using FedBizOpps to keep an eye on surveillance technology contracts."

Fedbizopps is a weird, revealing window into the world of creepy surveillance, arms, and technology contractors who build and maintain the most oppressive and unethical parts of the apparatus of the US government. Everything from drone-testing of biological and chemical weapons to license plate cameras to weaponized bugs and other malware are there. The EFF post also has links to data-mining tools that help estimate just how much money the private arms dealers extract from the tax-coffers.

One set of documents describes the Director of National Intelligence’s goal of funding “dramatic improvements in unconstrained face recognition.” A presentation from the Navy uses examples from Star Trek to explain its electronic warfare program. Other records show the FBI was purchasing mobile phone extraction devices, malware and fiber network-tapping systems. A sign-in list shows the names and contact details of hundreds of cybersecurity contractors who turned up a Department of Homeland Security “Industry Day.” Yet another document, a heavily redacted contract, provides details of U.S. assistance with drone surveillance programs in Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.

But these aren’t top-secret records carefully leaked to journalists. They aren’t classified dossiers pasted haphazardly on the Internet by hacktivists. They weren't even liberated through the Freedom of Information Act. No, these public documents are available to anyone who looks at the U.S. government’s contracting website, FBO.gov. In this case “anyone,” is usually just contractors looking to sell goods, services, or research to the government.  But, because the government often makes itself more accessible to businesses than the general public, it’s also a useful tool for watchdogs. Every government program costs money, and whenever money is involved, there’s a paper trail.

Transparency Tip: How to Track Government Projects Like a Defense Contractor (Thanks, Dave!)

Notable Replies

  1. You can read better than this. This post does not criticize the fact that this database is publicly accessible. In fact, its pointing out how odd and interesting that it IS public, and how by reading between the lines, you can deduce a lot of things that the government usually likes to keep secret. Your response helps no one, and damages your credibility.

  2. Star Trek, not Star Wars.

  3. FBO is a good thing. It's a really fascinating place to poke around, and it does a very good job keeping federal contracts from going through the good old boy network.

    Yes, it's true that weapons are procured through this site, but so are groundskeeping services and lots and lots and lots of life-saving technology. Almost everything the government spends more than $2500 on goes through this site.

  4. FBO is neither weird nor revealing. It's the Gov't's way of "competitively sourcing" the goods and services they need. Requests for everything from clerical services to DaVinci surgical robots are pretty common on that site. Most of the listings are mundane at best. None of the listings are classified, so I doubt there's anything on here about "arms."

    Sigh. It's like telling someone you work for a robotics company and they start yammering at you about how drones are unethical. Sling your moralizing lectures elsewhere.

  5. Meanwhile, in The Land of the Free, Inc.

    Federal judge orders FBI to explain why they're hiding records of an alleged plot to assassinate OCCUPY leaders.

    Yes, that's the Wall Street Journal.

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