The holiday season is upon us, time for cherished traditions. If you’re anything like us at Koprince Law, one of these traditions is reviewing the GAO’s annual bid protest report.
The overall picture I got from the report, while perhaps not the best clickbait, is that GAO bid protest figures have remained remarkably steady over the past few years. As it has been for the last few years, close to 50% of protests succeed. This stability is a story worth repeating.
GAO bid protests filed by small businesses are (statistically speaking) less likely to succeed than protests filed by large contractors, according to the RAND Corporation’s recent bid protest study.
The disparity isn’t the result of discrimination against small businesses, but rather a product of other factors: primarily, the motivation to protest, the understanding of the protest system, and access to legal counsel. RAND raises an important point, but offers no fair and easy solution. Perhaps, given that protests overall are “exceedingly uncommon,” a solution isn’t needed–but it’s wise to think about whether there are ways to help small businesses become better educated about bid protests.
When we write about bid protest decisions on SmallGovCon, odds are that we’re writing about a GAO decision. For good reason: GAO is the most common forum protesters bring bid protests.
But SmallGovCon readers also know there’s another possible forum for protests: the Court of Federal Claims.
The GAO publishes an annual bid protest report with statistics about the number and effectiveness rate of protests, among other things. But until very recently, we didn’t have much hard data about the frequency and efficacy of COFC protests. The recently-released RAND bid protest report changed that, by including a deep dive on DoD bid protests at COFC.
Let’s take a look.
Only a very small percentage of DoD contracts–0.3 percent, to be precise–are protested, according to a comprehensive and fascinating new report on bid protests issued by the RAND Corporation.
The detailed report, which was prepared at the behest of Congress, concludes that DoD bid protests are “exceedingly uncommon,” and typically aren’t frivolous. RAND’s analysts urge policymakers to carefully consider the data when evaluating whether reforms to the bid protest process are necessary–and to “avoid drawing overall conclusions or assumptions about trends from one case when it comes to the efficacy of the bid protest system.”
Amen to that.
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the fact that the GAO bid protest “effectiveness rate” was a sky-high 47% in FY 2017.
But, somewhat under the radar, contractors did even better at the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. According to the ASBCA’s annual report, contractors prevailed (in whole or in part) in 57.6% of FY 2017 ASBCA decisions.
GAO bid protests succeeded almost half the time in Fiscal Year 2017.
According to the GAO’s latest Bid Protest Annual Report, the effectiveness rate of GAO bid protests was 47% in the recently-completed fiscal year. The statistics are striking, because they come just as Congress is finalizing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes measures aimed at reducing bid protests. But with bid protests succeeding at a nearly 50% clip, why does the protest “reform” debate seem to center almost entirely on discouraging contractors to protest, rather than on decreasing the number of flawed source selection evaluations?
When an agency takes corrective action in response to a bid protest, the agency voluntarily agrees to do something (such as re-evaluate proposals, re-open discussions, or even cancel a solicitation) to address the alleged problems identified in the protest. Corrective actions are quite common: in FY 2016, more than 23% of GAO bid protests resulted in corrective actions.
But what happens when a protester doesn’t like the scope of the agency’s proposed corrective action? As a recent GAO decision demonstrates, corrective actions can themselves be protested–but challenging an agency’s corrective action can be an uphill battle.