The GAO sustained 22.56% of protests decided on the merits in Fiscal Year 2016–nearly double the 12% sustain rate reported in FY 2015.
According to the GAO’s FY 2016 Bid Protest Annual Report, the GAO sustained 139 of the 616 protests decided on the merits (that is, cases where GAO actually reached a “sustain” or “deny” decision). The overall effectiveness rate for protesters–a combination of “sustain” decisions, plus the many cases in which agencies took corrective action in response to protests–was 46%, a slight increase over the prior fiscal year.
The GAO’s annual report shows that 2,789 protests were filed in FY 2016, up 6% over the prior fiscal year. Of these protests, only 616 were ultimately decided on the merits. The remaining protests were closed for other reasons, such as corrective action, dismissals for reasons such as untimeliness, and cases resolved after GAO-mediated alternative dispute resolution.
GAO sustained 139 of the 616 protests. In contrast, in FY 2015, the GAO issued only 68 “sustain” decisions–or slightly less than half the total number of “sustains” issued in FY 2016. However, the overall protest effectiveness rate of 46% was little different than in FY 2015, where protesters realized a 45% effectiveness rate. Effectiveness rates have slowly ticked upwards over the last five fiscal years, from 42% in FY 2012 to 46% most recently.
The GAO’s trend away from oral hearings continued. In FY 2016, the GAO held oral hearings in only 27 cases. Back in FY 2012, the GAO held 56 oral hearings. Last year, the GAO held 31. Most protests are decided based solely on written filings.
The bid protest process frequently comes under attack, with some “sky is falling” commentators making it sound like nearly every federal procurement is challenged by frivolous protesters–and urging drastic rollbacks of contractors’ protest rights to combat this supposed threat. The GAO’s annual report is a refreshing return to actual facts.
As the report demonstrates, protests are filed on only a tiny fraction of federal procurements, and nearly half of protests result in relief for the protester. While there will always be the occasional protest that shouldn’t have been filed, the GAO has ways of dealing with those who abuse the protest process. The raw numbers make clear that protests remain an important way of ensuring that procurements are conducted fairly.