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CFDA: What is it and why does it matter?

The federal government’s Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance helps users identify federal assistance programs and improves coordination


CFDA is the federal government’s Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance. If you’re reading this article looking for federal program information, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for the Cowboy Fast Draw Association or the Council of Fashion Designers of America, you’re in the wrong part of the internet.

The CFDA is a government-wide listing of all the financial and non-financial assistance programs administered by the federal government. The Government Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for keeping the CFDA current. The CFDA has two main purposes:

  1. Help users identify programs and obtain general information of federal assistance programs.
  2. Improve coordination and communication between the federal government and state and local governments.

The GSA defines assistance as “the transfer of money, property, services or anything of value, the principal purpose of which is to accomplish a public purpose of support or stimulation authorized by Federal statue.”

The GSA used to print the CFDA and distribute it for free to designated recipients. In fiscal year 2003, GSA printed 10,000 paper copies. GSA now maintains the CFDA on the federal government’s website. The website provides a downloadable PDF version if you prefer to print it out. You can always purchase a printed copy from the GSA.

The CFDA provides a full listing of all federal programs, available to state and local governments, tribal governments, U.S. territories, nonprofits, for-profit businesses, specialized organizations and individuals. The CFDA is a unique number, by agency and program, that follows each program throughout its lifecycle, ensuring funding transparency.

Top FIVE CFDA agencies

The CFDA contains descriptions of 2,246 federal assistance programs. The top five agencies are:

  1. Health and Human Services (517 programs)
  2. Interior (290 programs)
  3. Agriculture (277 programs)
  4. Justice (123 programs)
  5. Housing and Urban Development (116 programs)

A CFDA number has five digits; two digits, a decimal point and then three more digits. The first two digits identify the federal department, agency or organization. The last three digits identify a specific assistance program. Examples of the two-digit agency numbers are:

  • Department of Agriculture (10.###)
  • Department of Defense (12.###)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development (14.###)
  • Department of the Interior (15.###)
  • Department of Justice (16.###)
  • Department of Transportation (20.###)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (66.###)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (93.###)
  • Department of Homeland Security (97.###)

As examples of complete CFDA numbers, the Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Conservation Program number is 10.054. The Department of Commerce’s Weights and Measures Service number is 11.606.

Four Department of Homeland Security programs in which you might be interested are:

If you are looking for grant and funding opportunities, you can search using the CFDA number. The CFDA website’s searchable database is surprisingly easy to use.

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