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UEI vs. Cage Code: Understanding the Differences for Government Contracting

Government contracting can be a complex and competitive arena, and it’s essential to understand the various identification codes that are used in this world. Two of the most crucial codes are the UEI (Unique Entity Identifier) and Cage Code. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between UEI and Cage Code and why they matter for businesses pursuing government contracts.

What is a UEI (Unique Entity Identifier)?

A UEI, or Unique Entity Identifier, is a relatively new concept introduced by the U.S. federal government. It is part of a broader initiative to simplify and standardize the identification of entities doing business with the government. The UEI replaces the D-U-N-S Number, which was previously used as a unique identifier for entities.

Key Characteristics of a UEI:

  1. Randomly Generated: UEIs are randomly generated alphanumeric codes assigned to each entity. They are unique and cannot be reused.
  2. Managed by SAM: UEIs are managed and assigned through the System for Award Management (SAM) portal, the central registration system for government contractors and grant recipients.
  3. Single Identifier: Unlike the D-U-N-S Number, which often required multiple identifiers for different government systems, the UEI is intended to be a single, universal identifier for each entity.

What is a Cage Code?

A Cage Code, or Commercial and Government Entity Code, has been in use for a more extended period than the UEI. It is primarily used to identify suppliers and contractors for the Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal agencies. Cage Codes have historically been associated with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).

Key Characteristics of a Cage Code:

  1. Alphanumeric Identifier: A Cage Code consists of a five-character alphanumeric code assigned to entities that do business with the DoD and other government agencies.
  2. Assigned by DLA: Cage Codes are assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Logistics Information Service (DLIS).
  3. Used in Defense Contracts: While Cage Codes are widely recognized across the federal government, they are particularly important in defense contracting.

Differences Between UEI and Cage Code:

  1. Purpose: UEIs are designed to be a universal identifier for entities conducting business with the federal government, encompassing all agencies. Cage Codes, on the other hand, are primarily associated with the DoD but are also recognized by other agencies.
  2. Assignment Authority: UEIs are assigned through the System for Award Management (SAM), while Cage Codes are assigned by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
  3. Format: UEIs consist of a random alphanumeric code, while Cage Codes are five-character alphanumeric codes.
  4. Scope: UEIs aim to replace multiple identifiers used across different government systems, providing a single, unified identifier for entities. Cage Codes are specific to government contracting and are primarily used in defense-related contracts.


In summary, understanding the differences between UEI and Cage Code is essential for businesses seeking government contracts. While UEIs are intended to provide a universal identifier for all federal government contracting, Cage Codes are historically associated with the Department of Defense and are widely used in defense contracting. Both codes play critical roles in identifying and verifying entities in government contracting, and businesses should ensure they have the appropriate codes depending on their contractual engagements and agencies they work with.


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