There’s a scene in 2016’s War Dogs where the Jonah Hill character explains to his employees that they are going to spend all day every day digging through one website. In the background, extras are seen staring in to the blue and yellow glow of FedBizOpps.gov.
“Oh my god,” I exclaimed from my couch to no one in particular. “I use that website every day—it’s terrible.”
FedBizOpps, or FBO, for the uninitiated is the primary federal government website for searching contracting opportunities.
War Dogs got FBO right. It does require a team of non-speaking roles to get through. It’s not that FBO doesn’t work. It does. It returns results when you enter a search.
But its not intuitive. And the design is, quite frankly, intimidatingly text heavy. It is a wall of text and hyperlinks with a few clipart images here or there. And also, sometimes it doesn’t work. You can put in the exact solicitation number and come up with bupkis. It’s a terrible website.
Don’t take my word for it. Federal News Network’s Jason Miller has repeatedly called FBO the “worst website in government” and he doesn’t have to use it to find contracting opportunities. Just imagine how the people who rely on it for their livelihood like it.
That’s why it is good news that FBO only has about a month left to live. Starting on November 8, FBO is moving to a beta version of the new SAM.gov website.
SAM is short for System for Award Management. Until recently, SAM had been where contractors register and make certain representations such as whether they are small businesses or not. Soon, it will become a one-stop repository of all things federal contracting.
The new SAM will incorporate not only FBO, but also the Federal Procurement Data System, the Contractor Performance Assessment Reports System, and the Past Performance Information Retrieval System among other federal websites.
According to a GSA factsheet, the SAM version of FBO will still allow searching by solicitation number, keyword, or location, and let the user access previous versions more freely and do things like set up alerts. It will require a login.gov sign-in, but hopefully that will only be for certain parts of the site.
The beta version does look a lot cleaner. It’s dominated by a search bar with an easy to use drop-down menu that allows you to search “contract opportunities”—the new version of FBO.
I did a keyword search for “elevator” and came up with 662 results sorted by relevance. At the top was a presolicitation for a garage elevator at the Hampton, Virginia, VA Medical Center. To the left of the results were different ways to narrow down the results, including agency, NAICS code, and set-aside designation.
In short, it looks better, likely works better, and should be a vast improvement. And War Dogs was not that bad.