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Ask a USAID Expert: Q&A with Ricardo Willis on the DUNS-UEI (SAM) Transition

Question marks in conversation bubbles cut from brown paper
Mar 21, 2022

Ricardo Willis is the Systems Support Branch Chief in USAID’s Management Bureau, Office of Acquisition and Assistance.

Ricardo Willis, Systems Support Branch Chief

Q: When is the transition from the data universal numbering system, or DUNS, to the new unique entity identifier, or UEI, happening?

A: The change will occur on April 4, 2022. 

Q: What is the difference between the DUNS number and the new UEI (SAM)?

A: They're used for the same purpose. The DUNS is a proprietary system that was developed and managed by Dun & Bradstreet, or D&B. The DUNS is a nine-character numeric value, which was assigned to a single business entity. The new UEI will actually be assigned by SAM and will be stored as a 12-character alphanumeric value, which will also be assigned to a single business entity. So the purpose is the same. However, the provider generating the number will be different, and the number itself will be different.

Q: What benefits will there be to USAID partners as a result of the change?

A: Right now, prior to the transition, an entity has to go to D&B to request their DUNS number, and then, only after the DUNS number has been assigned, they would go to SAM and register in order to do business with the government. Today, if there are any changes to the legal business name, or the physical address, they have to go back to D&B and then—and only after that information has been updated—are they able to go back to SAM to update their entity registration. So essentially, you have to go to two different places. You have to contact the help desk for D&B if you have any DUNS questions, and if you have any issues with SAM, you have to contact the help desk for SAM.

After the transition, it'll be easier to get the UEI because that request will be more streamlined. You basically only have to go to one place, which is SAM.gov, to request your UEI and register an entity. It’s all the same place within SAM if you need to make any updates to your legal business name or physical address. You do that in SAM, and if you have any issues, you do that with the same help desk. So it’s one-stop shopping.

Q: How can USAID partners prepare for the transition from DUNS to UEI (SAM)?

A: As of now, every active and even expired registration that exists within the SAM database already has a UEI assigned. So if they went into SAM right now, they could see their UEI. There are no actions required on behalf of those organizations for the implementation of the UEI. 

And for new organizations who are not yet in SAM, those organizations will automatically be assigned a new UEI when they register in SAM, which will be displayed in SAM.gov. The purpose of registration, core data, assertions, representations and certifications, points of contacts, etc., in SAM.gov will not change, and no one will be required to re-enter this data.

Q: After April 4, will organizations still need their DUNS number for anything – such as searching, reporting, etc.?

A: No, they won't need it. After April 4, DUNS will be gone, although we'll still have it on file historically. 

Q: Will USAID partners need to renew their UEI (SAM) each year the same way they have to renew their SAM.gov registration?

A: The SAM renewal process stays the same. There's no change in that, and they would still need to renew that each year. But the UEI will stay no matter what. It's like a social security number.

Q: Let’s say I am a USAID subcontractor or subawardee. Do I need to obtain a UEI (SAM)?

A: For a sub-partner, all they have to do is obtain a UEI. They don't have to go through the full-blown registration within SAM. A prime partner does need to go through the full registration process. 

Q: What is the best resource for information about how the change will affect my organization?

A: You can refer to the help documents on FSD.gov. There's actually a final webinar regarding the UEI transition on March 23 (click here to register). In addition, there is an interactive PDF tool which contains a more visual representation of the change from DUNS to UEI (SAM). 

Q: Where can my organization get support if I run into difficulty or confusion related to the transition from DUNS to UEI (SAM)?

A: If you require support, you can go to the Federal Service Desk (FSD). There is a phone number for U.S. and non-U.S. entities (U.S. calls: 866-606-8220 / international calls: +1 334-206-7828 and DSN: 94-866-606-8220). You can create an account on FSD.gov and chat online with a representative, or you can create a webform support ticket and submit it yourself.

For USAID partners that are doing business or plan on doing business with USAID and need quicker support, they can provide their FSD ticket number to their contracting officer (CO). The CO can get in contact with my team, and I can escalate that ticket with GSA. We have relationships with the NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) team, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), SAM, and GSA, and a lot of the issues that the partners encounter, we may be able to provide a response to. When the CO reaches out to us, we can make a determination on whether or not it needs to be escalated, or we can just answer the question.

Q: What is the most important thing that USAID partners and potential partners need to know about the change from DUNS to UEI (SAM)?

A: I think the most important thing is the fact that the transition will enable a more streamlined process for the management of registrations and renewals. It was very frustrating for new partners, as well as existing partners, whenever they had to either renew or apply for a new registration if they ran into an issue with their DUNS number—trying to contact D&B to get that updated properly, and then reaching back out to SAM and trying to get SAM to incorporate that change. So there was a lot of back and forth when there was an issue with your DUNS number. Now, with UEI, everything will be handled by the FSD, which serves as the SAM help desk.

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