Unsuccessful offerors in a competitive procurement conducted by any Department of Defense agency can now expect a more thorough explanation of how the agency evaluated their proposal — known as an “enhanced” debrief. What’s new is that the information the CO will provide is much more detailed, and after receipt of the debrief, you may submit additional questions.
In FY2017, DOD contract obligations totaled $320 billion, a sum larger than all other government agencies combined, guaranteeing that enhanced debriefs will be felt throughout the contracting community.
Here's what contractors need to do, and when:
- Make a written request for a debriefing to the Contracting Officer, taking care that your request is received within 3 calendar days of the date on which you received notification of contract award.
- Submit any post-debrief questions to the CO within 2 business days after receipt of that required debriefing.
Here's what you can expect from the CO:
- A debrief within 5 calendar days after receipt of your written request; and
- Responses to your additional post-debrief questions within 5 business days after their receipt. After delivery of its responses, the agency will inform you that the postaward debriefing is concluded.
At a minimum, a postaward debriefing shall include:
(i) an evaluation of the significant weak or deficient factors in the offeror's offer;
(ii) the overall evaluated cost and technical rating of the offer of the contractor awarded the contract and the overall evaluated cost and technical rating of the offer of the debriefed offeror;
(iii) the overall ranking of all offers; and
(iv) a summary of the rationale for the award.
The good news for contractors is that having now seen a few enhanced debriefs from different agencies, COs are taking the term “enhanced” seriously.
- Note the date on which the CO says the debrief is concluded. It’s a trigger for a subsequent agency or GAO protest. While a persistent contractor may send in a second batch of questions, and a cooperative contracting officer may voluntarily answer those questions, that second response after the CO concluded the debriefing will not restart the protest clock.
- Due dates are tricky. The official close of business for the GAO and agencies differ—GAO is 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, but agencies are 4:30 p.m. local time. Unless the solicitation specifies otherwise, so be sure to check. Time is counted from when the filing is received, not sent. Most important, a number of different events can affect your due date—including when you first learned of the basis for your protest, whether your request for a debrief was timely, or whether the CO sent notice of the contract award after business hours. In fact, it is possible to have different due dates for different protest claims. Agencies and the GAO will strictly enforce all due dates. If you file even minutes late, you’re out of luck.
So, submit your debrief request promptly, and if you think you might have a basis on which to protest, seek advice early. Doing so doesn’t commit you to filing a protest. But making assumptions about a protest due date, then waiting until that date is upon you before seeking advice can result in inadvertently missing filing options. Keep your options open with early advice.
About the Authors
GOVCON University Blog authors Milt Johns, Partner, and Rachel Leahey, Associate, lead FH+H's Government Contracts Practice. Focusing on the middle market, Milt and Rachel help guide government contractors through the maze of applicable rules and regulations to enable corporate success, now and in the future.
Additional information regarding their capabilities and previous representations can be found here.