WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Are incumbents really losing more often?

A couple of incumbents are challenging award decisions that went against them.

First, there is Salient CRGT, which has been fighting to retain a Defense Logistics Agency contract for well over the year.

The company lost one round at the Government Accountability Office in late 2014 when it unsuccessfully argued that the solicitation didn’t adequately describe the agency’s requirements.

Now, they are protesting the ultimate awarding of the contract to Primescape Solutions. Salient CRGT picked up the work when it acquired ATS Corp. in 2012. ATS appears to have been doing the work since 2010.

In the second protest, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems is protesting an Air Force contract that went to CSRA Inc. for technology support for Distributed Command Ground System. GD had been supporting that system since at least 2009.

Incumbents fighting to keep lost contracts is a familiar refrain these days. I often hear people say how incumbents are in danger and are easier to knock off.

My gut tells me that its true. Too many smart people have told me that, but I can’t help but wonder how much risk incumbents actually face.

The data I’ve been able to find isn’t consistent.

In a webinar last year, Lisa Pafe of Lohfeld Consulting said that incumbents lose half of their recompetes.

That’s backed up by the National Contract Management Association, which reported in its annual contract review that incumbent win rates in 2013 were 49 percent at civilian agencies and 65 percent at defense agencies. This was for contracts with a value over $100 million.

The 2012 Grant Thornton Annual Contractor Survey found that respondents said they were winning 50 percent of the competitions when they were the incumbent.

But in the 2015 survey, respondents said they won 75 percent of their incumbent recompetes.

So, I’m not sure what the trend is. Things are either getting riskier for incumbents, or less risky.

Or perhaps it has always been tough, but the losses are just tougher and the wins sweeter because the opportunities are now fewer.

Pafe has some sage advice in her webinar, appropriately called “The Decline of the Incumbent Empire: 10 Proven Ways to Unseat the Incumbent.” She reviews the advantages incumbents hold, but also areas where they are vulnerable. And you can't forget to consider the customers point of view.

But whatever the trend lines -- and if you have ideas for other sources of information, please let know -- incumbents do lose, so it’s an opportunity you can’t ignore.

Posted on Jan 15, 2016 at 10:40 AM


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