What Are National Stock Numbers (NSN)?

supply NSN

With abundance of various items, products, parts, elements, and details to procure, federal agencies need a simple and unified way to unambiguously identify a particular item. This task is resolved via National Stock Numbers / NSN, a numbering system that aims to simplify federal and military procurement and avoid purchasing duplicate items.

From this article you will learn what is NSN, how it is assigned, and how do you read the National Stock Number.

Check if you Qualify to be a GSA Contractor

What is a National Stock Number (NSN)?

Just like many other terms and concepts related to federal acquisition, the term National Stock Number sounds more complex than it actually is. So, what is an NSN number? A layman’s NSN definition would be a unique serial number that is assigned to every item sold to the government agencies on the recurring basis. This number is issued by the FSS, i.e. the Federal Supply System.

Why assign serial numbers to items? First of all, this allows federal buyers and businesses to identify the products unambiguously. This is crucial, because many similar or even identical items can be named differently depending on the supplier, manufacturer, or federal contractor that sells them.

Needless to say, the DoD and most other agencies need exact definition of every item they are about to procure, to simplify logistics and shorten the supply chain, and they would certainly not want to purchase duplicate items. The National Stock Numbers (also known as NATO Stock Numbers) are intended to solve that.

An assigned NSN standardizes certain data elements such as name, part number, price per unit, weight, dimensions and other features and performance characteristics that completely describe the item. 

Who uses the NSN?

National Stock Numbers are a standard for the U.S. Government, NATO, as well as other government all around the globe. Among primary users of NSN is the Department of Defense.

Here are the main categories of primary NSN users.

Federal Agencies

Dozens of Federal Agencies use the NSN to procure supplies for billions of dollars annually. Some major users are the Department of Defense (DoD), where the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) determines the way each NSN item is stocked, stored and issued to the Military Services. By using the NSN, DoD can coordinate logistics between Military Services and other federal agencies.

Military Services

Speaking of coordination, the NSN stock number becomes extremely important when the US military are about to participate in join military operations. What does NSN mean for the military? Each service can access the same information and easily identify the required items, thanks to using the principle of a common language when naming the supplied products. Thus, technicians can easily maintain and repair weapons and systems, regardless of the branch of the Military Services, because each and every part is uniquely identified with the NSN across the entire Department.

Defense Reutilization and Disposal

What is the NSN number for disposal or reutilization? Well, it allows identifying items that require specific utilization procedures and/or conditions. For example, when a part contains some rare-earth elements, precious metals or hazardous components that require special handling during disposal. 

What are main advantages of the NSN?

There a lot of advantages of using NSN. After all, that is exactly why it was invented in the first place.

  • Quick identification of parts, supplies, and recurring products for faster procurement;
  • Better inventory management;
  • Eliminates duplicates and hence optimizes spending and maximizes the use of available spare or interchangeable items;
  • Allows to centralize information on all items procured by an agency;
  • Keep track of all manufacturers of the same or interchangeable parts or items for quicker replacement of a supplier;
  • Improve design, manufacture and repair cycle times;
  • Most importantly, NSN improves life cycle management of recurring supply items, from requisition to acquisition to maintenance, and to disposal.

Why were NSNs created?

Before the National Stock Numbers were introduced, different names for similar or even identical items and supplies were not uncommon. This made locating the necessary supplies harder, and often lead to situations when a certain Military Services received a surplus of an item, while another service faced an item depletion situation because of insufficient procurement.

This situation required the introduction of a unified way to name items to promote easier moving assets from one branch of the military to another and prevent procurement of multiple similar items going under different names.

The NSN had also solved another problem. Manufacturers had a tendency (and still have today) to name and describe the items based on their inner rules. This also creates difficulties for both manufacturers and procuring agencies, because they need a quick way to learn the basic features of a product. With the supplied products’ NSN, this effect is alleviated.

Today, over 7 million of products and items in the FLIS (Federal Logistics Information System), are identified using federal stock numbers, the NSN system.

National Stock Number Format

Just like Government Solicitation Number or PIID, National Stock Number has a fixed format.

The NSN is a 13-digit code:


The code has four segments:

  • First 4 digits are a Federal Supply Class. For instance, 6140 means “Batteries, Rechargeable”. And by the way, there is no “1234” Federal Supply Class.
  • The following two digits are NATO Country Code. It is 00 or 01 for the U.S. “56” we used in the example above is for Oman. This code determines the country of origin of the item.
  • The remaining digits are unique NSN stock numbers identifying NSN products.

How to access NSN data

To search for NSN data, get the list of NSN numbers, or to look for associated supply data, you can use on of the following databases. Here is how to find National Stock Numbers.

  • Public Logistics Data (PUB LOG). This website is available to everyone, so you can use it without any subscription, nor do you need specific access. The drawback of this resource is the not-so-frequent updates, as the NSN info is updated every 30 days.
  • Federal Logistics Data (FED LOG). To use this site you will need to log on to FED LOG first, which requires a Common Access Card (CAC) or an account on FedMall. The FED LOG website provides the National Stock Numbers list,  Approved Item Name, Manufacturers and Distributors information (to include Part Numbers), Physical and Performance Characteristics, etc. Importantly, the data is updated daily.
  • Web Federal Logistics Information System (WebFLIS) – this system fetches information from Federal Logistics Information System (FLIS) and displays it in a web browser. You can research medical and weapons systems, bill of material/sets, kits and outfits.
  • PIEE (previously FedMall). While FedMall is in fact an acquisition platform, you can also use it to gain information about certain NSNs.

National Stock Number Assignment and Request Process

If you are asking yourself now, how to get a National Stock Number, here is an answer for you.

Who can request a NSN assignment?

Requesting army NSN numbers is restricted to a military branches, NATO country, certain federal agencies, and Contractor Support Weapons Systems (CSWS), managed by a contractor. Manufacturers and/or suppliers cannot request assignment of an NSN.

After the request is submitted, it is forwarded through the supply chain and gets cataloged. Then, the request ends up in the Logistics Information Services, and the NSN assignment is completed.

Who assigns a NSN?

The DLA Logistics Information Services provides logistics and IT services to DoD, including assigning the NSNs. The DLIS is located in Battle Creek,  Michigan. When an NSN assignment request arrives, the DLIS carefully reviews the submission and catalogs it. The process of cataloging includes naming the item, identifying its characteristics and performance data, assigning the item to a Federal Supply Class, and finally assigning a National Stock Number index.

A request for the new National Stock Number is initiated when there is a recurring need for a non-stocked item. Also, in case a new weapon systems are being developed, this may lead to introduction of a range of new NSNs. As soon as such a new weapon system is deployed, a military branch provides an NSN to identify potential spare parts that already have assigned NSNs, and submits requests for new NSN assignment for other items.

It goes without saying that NSN needs to be routinely updated to reflect NSN price list changes, part number changes, physical characteristics changes, or to add new manufacturers.

How to Update NSN Data

As a vendor or a manufacturer of a product, part or other item that is shipped to the government, you may need to update NSN data if your product specifications have changed. 

The Interactive Government & Industry Data Edit & Review (iGIRDER) is a tool that allows you to review and update product information, a CAGE number and part number recorded in the Federal Catalog System. Submitted changes are applied on 15th of each month. However, when it comes to army NSN numbers, additional engineering info and ICP (Inventory Control Point) review may be required.

Do you need professional guidance with NSN?

In this article we have explained: what is an NSN number, and what’s so important about it. But you may still have questions, especially if you are new to the whole federal contracting world and have never supplied products to the Department of Defense in particular.

Price Reporter is a GSA expert with more than 14 years of experience. We have helped a lot of companies to succeed on the federal market.

What can you do with the help of Price Reporter in particular?

  • Apply for a Schedule. We help small businesses to get ready for a GSA Schedule, including gathering and preparing the required documents, organizing in-company business processes, and training the staff.
  • Get awarded. Our specialists streamline the preliminary preparation and submission processes as well as pre-award communication with GSA contracting officers to make the award process effortless and resulting.
  • Easily maintain your contract. Getting a GSA Schedule contract is only the first step towards federal market success. Post-award maintenance of your GSA contract is crucial for fruitful cooperation with the government. The maintenance includes managing compliance, communicating with GSA officials, resolving legal issues, and so on.
  • Manage GSA orders. Price Reporter helps you with your GSA Schedule pricing. This includes setting the optimal prices, managing price reduction and prices adjustments, placing bids and so on. Also, we offer an EDI system to help you process GSA orders automatically.

Please visit the GSA website of Price Reporter if you want to ask us any questions about GSA Schedule contracting and any particular aspect of it, including but not limited to National Stock Numbers. We will be glad to assist you in your endeavors!

Click to rate
[Total: 0 Average: 0]
Leave feedback

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *