Are better debriefings driving down protests?

The official yearly bid protest report shows a steady decline in cases and regarding the Defense Department, some in Congress believe DOD's enhanced debriefing process might be the reason.

Prevailing wisdom says every contract gets hit with a protest. That is often true for the headline grabbing multibillion-dollar vehicles.

But the truth is most contracts aren’t worth billions and most contracts don’t get protested.

In fact, the government's 2021 fiscal year marked the fifth in a row that the number of protests filed with the Government Accountability Office fell, according to its annual bid protest report to Congress. The one caveat is fiscal 2018, when there was an increase of below 1 percent.

Fiscal 2021 saw 1,897 cases filed at GAO, down 12 percent compared to fiscal 2020 that saw 2,149 cases.

It is important to note how GAO counts cases. Each case does not represent an individual contract or task order award. A single contract can have multiple cases associated with it. For example, Company A files a protest and then makes supplemental filings. GAO counts each filing as a separate case, even though all the cases involve the same procurement.

The five-year decline (from 2017 to 2021) followed a rise in the number of cases from fiscal 2012 to 2016. That excludes fiscal 2013, which was down 2 percent from fiscal 2012.

GAO doesn’t speculate on what's behind the decline. But it is worth noting that starting in 2018, the Defense Department started conducting what are called “enhanced” debriefings that allow for more dialogue with companies after they’ve lost a contract. That means unsuccessful bidders get more information on where their bid fell short.

Our own research in 2018 concluded that many companies filed protests simply to learn why they lost.

The House Armed Services Committee's report on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act also talks about the value of enhanced debriefings to reduce bid protests.

“In order for the Department to gain the full benefit of enhanced debriefings, the committee emphasizes the demonstrated value of meaningful, in-person debriefings to avoid unnecessarily costly and time-consuming bid protests,” that report states.

The committee wants the Defense Department to provide a briefing on efforts to implement enhanced debriefings by Dec. 30.

A second reason that might be driving down the number of protests is limits on GAO’s jurisdiction over large, multiple-award indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts.

Task orders under civilian IDIQS must be worth at least $10 million. For defense contracts, the task orders must be worth at least $25 million.

Anything under those thresholds, you can’t file a protest at GAO.

As agencies increasingly use these vehicles, it is reasonable to expect fewer protests.

When you get past the annual number of cases, GAO other measures hold steady.

The rate of sustained protests -- cases where GAO decides in favor of the protester -- was at 15 percent for fiscal 2021. That is the same rate as in 2020 and 2018.

The rate was 13 percent in 2019 and 17 percent in 2017.

GAO also measures the “effectiveness rate," which combines the sustained cases with the cases where the agency took some sort of corrective action to address issues raised in the protest.

The rate in fiscal 2021 was 48 percent, which also is in keeping with the numbers we’ve seen over the last five years -- 51 percent in 2020, 44 percent in 2019, 44 percent in 2018 and 47 percent in 2017.

Those high percentages explain one motivation for why companies protest -- they are seeking some action by the agency and they are getting it.

It is also worth noting that of the 2,017 cases filed in fiscal 2021, only 581 went to a full decision by GAO, or slightly more than one-fourth.

Of the 581 that went to a full decision, only 85 were sustained, or 14 percent.

GAO also reported that of its 2021 protest cases, 401 were protests involving challenges to task order awards. In 2020, GAO heard 417 task order protests, down from 373 in 2019, when there was a 35-day government shutdown.

GAO also notes the most common reasons it sustains protests -- unreasonable technical evaluation; flawed discussions; unreasonable cost or price evaluation; or unequal treatment. Or sometimes a combination of more than one.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.