If you are familiar with Government contracting, at some point you have probably encountered disappointment in losing an award when you thought you should have won. Or, maybe you read a Request for Proposals (RFP) with terms that just seemed unfair.
There are two basic categories of protests: Pre-award protests which must be filed before the close of the solicitation (or the opening of a bid) and Post-award protests which must be filed by an “interested party” within certain time limits depending on the type of bid requested and the forum selected. Note that an “interested party” is not necessarily what it sounds like. The Federal Acquisition Regulations define an interested party as “An Interested party for the purpose of filing a protest means an actual or prospective offeror whose direct economic interest would be affected by the award of a contract or by the failure to award a contract.” This definition has been further narrowed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Courts as “the next in line.” In other words, if there is no chance you could be awarded a contract even with the protest issue resolved, you are not an interested party.
There are many other things to consider before filing a protest to include: WHEN to file (as mentioned above), WHERE to file (as there are advantages/disadvantages in filing at the Agency level, at GAO, or in the US Court of Federal Claims), HOW to file (format, redactions, requests for documents and a protective order, etc.), and, most importantly, WHAT arguments to make. In addition, if you are protesting the small business size or socioeconomic status of a business, those protests are filed with the Small Business Administration which has its own administrative rules.
If you need help with deciding whether or not to protest, we can help. Our staff of former Government contract lawyers have, collectively, hundreds of years’ worth of experience both prosecuting and defending protests and can provide invaluable advice on all aspects involved in making this crucial business decision.