Time. It’s a great Pink Floyd song. It’s also something that frequently trips up contractors filing protests before GAO. As one contractor recently discovered, a challenge to the salient characteristics of a brand name product is equivalent to challenging the terms of a solicitation, which carries a different protest deadline than evaluation challenges.
Unfortunately for the protester, its argument did not fair nearly as well as one of David Gilmour’s solos.
In the world of federal contracting, precision matters. In fact, precision is often essential when developing a winning proposal. When it comes to subjective evaluation considerations, however, it can be challenging to articulate relevant evaluation criteria with a high level of precision. Indeed, as one prospective offeror recently discovered, some evaluation terms are good enough for government work, despite being imprecise.
Let’s suppose that you just received a new solicitation hot off the press. As you peruse it, you find a requirement that you believe is too onerous or unnecessary. So you contemplate filing a GAO protest to challenge that term.
Before doing so, be sure that you’re an “interested party” under GAO’s regulations. Well, I filed a protest, you say, doesn’t that make me an interested party? Short answer: no.
Solicitations are intended to provide contractors with sufficient information about an agency’s needs to compete intelligently for government awards. In a recent procurement for special operations forces training facilities, one bidder alleged the solicitation provided so little detail that the solicited site “might just as well be a thrown-together paintball site for teenage birthday parties.”
Clearly in no mood to party, GAO denied the protest, taking the agency at its word that its requirements were minimal.
Ignorance is bliss,
right? Not always. In the world of government contracting, GAO recently dismissed
a protest because its initial agency protest was not timely filed, reminding
the protester that ignorance of the law is no excuse.
As seasoned government contractors know, an impropriety in a
solicitation’s terms must be protested before the deadline to submit an offer.
If the protest is submitted after the solicitation’s response deadline, the
protest will be dismissed as untimely.
GAO recently held that this rule holds true when an agency converts a sealed bid (under FAR part 14) to a negotiated procurement (under FAR part 15).