Receiving a notice that a competitor received an award can be a punch to the gut. This feeling is compounded when the requested debriefing is short on details. Offerors are normally left with more questions than answers.
The DoD has proposed to amend the DFARS to enhance debriefings in certain procurements. The correct amount of information in a debriefing is an ever-moving target; hopefully, this new proposed amendment will be a step in the right direction.
Depending on the type of procurement, an agency will often provide either a brief explanation or debriefing after an award is made. But those explanations are difficult to challenge, as a recent GAO decision confirmed.
In the decision, GAO dismissed a protester’s challenge to the sufficiency of a two-paragraph explanation. Protester failed to show competitive prejudice or regulatory deficiency in the explanation. Since the protester could not demonstrate either of these conditions resulted from the explanation, GAO dismissed these allegations.
When protesting to GAO after receiving a brief explanation, what do you need to know in order to get your foot in the door? Let’s take a look.
Some contractors mistakenly believe that debriefings or post-debriefing questions always extend the deadline for filing a protest with GAO. In some cases they do, but in others they don’t.
In cases where they don’t, a protester must file its protest within 10 days of knowing the basis for its protest. Otherwise, GAO will dismiss the protest as untimely, without any regards to the protest’s merits.
GAO’s bid protest window for debriefings—which closes 10 days after the required debriefing—knows very few exceptions. But what if the agency offers you a more informative post-award debriefing in place of the pre-award debriefing normally required upon your elimination from the competitive range? This option will likely improve your ability to compete for future contracts with the agency. Shouldn’t you be able to accept it without giving up your right to protest? GAO says no.
Unless an agency designates different business hours, the FAR says that a government agency is deemed to close at 4:30 p.m. local time–not 5:00 p.m., as it would be easy to assume.
In a recent case, the 4:30 p.m. closing time cost an unsuccessful offeror a chance at a GAO protest because the offeror’s debriefing request, sent to the agency at 4:59 p.m., was deemed untimely.