- The Defense Department online database is a fairly robust resource for contracts and it is updated regularly. This database does not include weapons contracts.
Former Washington Post database editor and now Duke University Knight Professor of Journalism and Public Policy Sarah Cohen advises defense reporters to use the Federal Procurement Data System, a comprehensive database of government contracts and requests for proposal.
You can also search the Defense Department website if you know the contract number or company name.
Cohen led the database reporting for The Washington Post investigation Money as a Weapon in 2008, which investigated U.S. spending on reconstruction in Iraq and included an interactive database of defense records. It’s a superior example of mining and analyzing defense data obtained by FOIAs.
- Fed Biz Opps is used by military and other government agencies for broad agency announcements (BAAs), requests for information (RFIs) and requests for proposals (RFPs).
Explains Michael Fabey, defense reporter for Aviation Week & Aerospace Daily, “The BAA tells of a basic agency or military service need for a certain technology, system or capability. The RFI is more specific, telling of a specific needed requirement, capability or piece of equipment and asking industry for details of cost and general feasibility. The RFP is the most specific – it not only tells what military or other government agency wants, but also provides details on how it wants it.”
- Taxpayers for Common Sense describes itself as an “independent and non-partisan voice for taxpayers working to increase transparency and expose and eliminate wasteful and corrupt subsidies, earmarks, and corporate welfare. It maintains an extensive database of government budget earmarks, browsable online or downloadable in an Excel file.
Laura Peterson, the national security analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, is expert at tracking congressional defense earmarks. Contact her at Laura@taxpayer.net
- Covering weapons procurement requires knowledge of the major weapons programs and who the major contractors are and where they’re located. The best source for state-by-state presence of the military-industrial complex is the Pentagon’s Atlas/Data Abstract for the United States and Selected Areas.
Below is a 2009 summary (earlier years) for personnel and spending for the country, and state breakouts. (Click arrows in lower left to make full screen).
- To get up to speed on current weapons programs, you need to know the major contractors in your state. Start with the listing at USASpending.gov and click on a state. You can also sort by agency and congressional districts to track spending.
The Government Accountability Office’s annual weapons report is also a crucial resource (2010 edition, PDF).
Also, check if there is a regional GAO field office in your area. GAO auditors are good sources of context on defense management and weapons programs and can give insights into ongoing work and reports near completion. They are also free to talk about reports after release. (GAO contact directory, PDF).
DoD Personnel and Procurement Reports and Data Files
A plethora of statistics about military and civilian personnel and procurement is available from the Department of Defense’s Statistical Analysis Division. Key topic-level pages at which to begin your searches are below.
- Procurement (2006 and earlier)
- Procurement (2007+)
- Military casualty data
- Military personnel statistics
- Civilian personnel statistics
- The U.S. Patent Office can offer information on technology the federal government is trying to acquire for intelligence or warfare, according to Fabey.
- For equipment safety issues, Fabey suggests the USACR Safety Center, which maintains a database of accident reports and statistics.
- GlobalSecurity.org is a reliable source for weapons systems, defense programs bases, policies and budgets.
- The Project On Government Oversight website offers a list of federal contracting resources:
- The Federation of American Scientists is a good source for defense policy and strategy analysis.