The U.S. Government Cataloging and National Stock Number System

A National Stock Number is simply an official label applied to an item that is repeatedly bought, stocked, stored, issued, and used throughout the federal supply system. When an NSN is assigned to an item, data is assembled to describe the item. The item description includes information like price, item name, manufacturer’s part number, physical and performance characteristics, and so on.

An NSN is applied to nearly every imaginable item, from light bulbs to crescent wrenches to gun barrels. Now, is a separate NSN assigned to every type of 60-watt light bulb? General Electric, Sylvania, and Westinghouse all manufacture 60-watt light bulbs that are the same size and perform the same function. So, all 60-watt light bulbs are classified under the same NSN. When items from different manufacturers perform the same function, have the same characteristics, and are the same size, a single NSN is assigned. This minimizes the number of NSNs that are cataloged in the Federal Logistics Information System, or FLIS.

The NSN is officially recognized by the United States Government, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and many governments around the world. Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), use the NSN to buy and manage billions of dollars worth of supplies each year. The FLIS currently contains about 14 million active and inactive U.S. NSNs. The non-U.S.NATO members make use of approximately eight million active NSNs that are assigned to items produced in their countries. The common NSNs among NATO countries are used for the many items that are shared within defense inventories. The NSN is the key to promoting coordination among the Services, and to supporting current and future DoD weapons systems.

NSNs and Cataloging History

The cataloging function traces its roots to the Naval Depot Supply Stock Catalog, established in 1914. At the end of World War II, the United States Government was faced with a national debt of unprecedented size. The need to improve the efficiency of government operations was apparent.

On July 7 of 1947, Congress responded by creating a Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. Former President Herbert Hoover was selected to head the Commission.  Also in July of 1947, the Army-Navy Munitions Board established the Cataloging Agency.  On July 1 of 1952, the biggest event in cataloging history occurred when Public Law 82-436 was passed as the Defense Cataloging and Standardization Act.

January 1 of 1962 marks the organization of the Defense Supply Agency. The Armed Forces Supply Support Center was renamed the Defense Logistics Service Center, which became the central control point for the Federal Catalog System. The Defense Logistics Service Center was later renamed the Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS).

The first major upgrade to the catalog system occurred in 1975 with the implementation of the Defense Integrated Data System. The System improved support and expanded the NSN from 11 to 13 characters.

NSNs and DLIS Services

With the consolidation and co-location of cataloging, twelve of the thirteen cataloging tasks are now performed at DLIS. Although Item Management Coding (determining whether items of supply qualify for management by the Military Services or by DLA/GSA) remains a Service/Agency responsibility, the following tasks transferred to the DLIS Directorate of Cataloging (DLIS-K). Successful completion of these tasks helps to ensure the integrity of information in the Federal Logistics Information System (FLIS) database.

Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) Key Tasks

The Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) performs a variety of tasks to support the Armed Forces and other government agencies. A summary of these tasks is listed below.

Additional Questions?

What is a National Item Identification Number?

A National Item Identification Number (NIIN) is a nine-digit code that identifies each item of supply. The first two numbers of the NIIN represent the National Codification Bureau Code. This code identifies the country that entered the item into the supply system. The remaining seven digits are sequentially assigned and serve to individually identify each item in the Federal Catalog System (FCS).

What is the difference between a NSN and a NIIN?

A National Item Identification Number (NIIN) is a nine-digit code that identifies each item of supply. A National Stock Number (NSN) is a 13-digit number consisting of the four-digit Federal Supply Class (FSC) and the nine-digit NIIN.

How is a NSN assigned?

National Stock Numbers (NSNs) are requested by the purchasing activities, not the manufacturer. When the manufacturer submits a bid on a contract, if selected, the Inventory Control Point (ICP) will request a NSN if the item is not already stock listed.

How does the Air Force get an NSN assigned?

Potential New Items should be submitted into the Air Force D043 System, using the BASE 86 option. This will then be sent to DLIS and the appropriate Air Logistics Center (ALC) for review, coordination and possible stock list action.

What is the Air Force D043 Master Item Identification Control System (MIICS)?

The D043 MIICS provides for Air Force (AF) participation in the Federal Catalog Program, as set forth by Department of Defense (DoD) 4100.39-M. D043 further supports AF cataloging policy outlined in AFMCMAN 23-110, Volume I, Part One, Chapter 7. Interfacing with the Federal Logistics Information System (FLIS) and numerous other databases, D043 is a central repository of Federal and AF logistics data for approximately 2.5 million AF-used items of supply. D043 receives, validates, records, maintains, and distributes Catalog Management Data (CMD), Item Identification (II) data, supply management data, and other information essential to AF logistics support. The system facilitates AF involvement in numerous DoD-directed programs, such as the Defense Inactive Item Program (DIIP) (DoD 4140.32-M), the Item Management Coding (IMC) Program (DoD 4140.26-M), and the DoD Interchangeability and Substitution (DoD I&S) Program. D043 regularly provides data to nearly 40 downstream AF systems, including the D035 Stock Control and Distribution (SC&D) System, D200 Requirements Data Bank (RDB), and--via the D071 Stock Number User Directory (SNUD)--the D002A Standard Base Supply System (SBSS).

All material is courtesy of the Defense Logistics Information Service and their virtual guru, "Phyllis", located @ Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS) This DLIS site enables a user to ask Phyllis logistics questions and get both answers and immediate access to other sites/pages that have relevant information. This site can be enormously helpful, and it enables a user to search for NSNs, CAGE Codes, Item Names, Federal Supply Classes, etc. Service unique information for the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps is also available. It also has on-line tools and training to aid users in understanding theU.S. logistics system.