Small businesses often search for ways to increase their competitiveness for federal government contracts. A sometimes overlooked method is to try to better define the procurement’s requirements in a manner that improves a firm’s chances of being awarded the contract, through a pre-award bid protest.
Here are five things you should know about pre-award protests:
Over the last few years, SmallGovCon has covered the Congressionally-mandated march away from use of lowest-price technically-acceptable procurements at the Department of Defense. But although Congress has restricted when DOD might use LPTA criteria, the Department has not followed this mandate.
A recent GAO report highlights DOD’s struggle. As of September 2018, DOD has not yet revised its regulations to reflect certain statutory restrictions against LPTA awards and, as a result, DOD contracting officers believe they are not yet required to follow these new requirements.
Candidly, I’m not so sure. But in any event, GAO’s report issued a couple of recommendations to help DOD fully implement the restrictions against LPTA procurements.
Let’s take a look.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and instead of watching football (CHIEFS!), you’re shopping for a new refrigerator. You explain to the salesman your must-haves: a black refrigerator with a bottom-drawer freezer and an in-door water dispenser. But rather than showing you refrigerators that meet your criteria, he insists on showing you stainless steel models with the freezer on the side.
If the refrigerator doesn’t meet your needs (or your wants), odds are you won’t buy it. The federal government is no different: if it identifies salient characteristics in a solicitation, proposals that deviate from them likely aren’t going to win the award.
If you’re a winner under a solicitation, you can’t challenge the ground rules under which you won–at least under the facts of a recent GAO bid protest decision.
In that decision, GAO concluded that the protestor of a solicitation’s terms lacked standing when the protester was subsequently identified as an awardee under the solicitation.
As many contractors and attorneys can attest, federal acquisitions sometimes seek items that are federally regulated, which can result in some complex compliance issues. A classic example of this interaction is the procurement of aircraft. Not only must bidders comply with the requirements of the solicitation, they must also satisfy the FAA’s airworthiness regulations.
So what happens when the FAA’s regulations and the solicitation requirements appear to be at odds? That was the question presented to GAO in Timberline Helicopters, Inc., B-414507, (June 27, 2017), where inter-agency communications between the procuring agency and the FAA resolved the issue. And according to GAO, the procuring agency wasn’t required to disclose those communications to prospective offerors.
An agency’s solicitation was not unreasonably vague where the solicitation defined “relevant” past performance to include projects of “a similar dollar value and contract type.”
In a recent bid protest decision, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims rejected a protester’s assertion that the solicitation was required to identify a specific dollar value associated with relevant past performance, finding that the solicitation’s phrasing was sufficient to allow offerors to compete intelligently.