Industry observers recognize that bid protests — the official act of challenging a contract award — are on the rise.
According to an article in Federal Times, the Government Accountability Office reported that 2010 was the third year in a row where bid protests increased by more than 15 percent.
So what’s behind the uptick?
Some point to the increasing use of “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contracts, single but multifaceted contracts covering many years. But, because fewer contracts may be awarded overall, the stakes are higher for bidding firms.
The process for challenging the awarding of a contract can boil down to financial reasons, but often a messy bid-protest fight points to a lack of communication between the government and industry. A bid protest can be a last, desperate measure to wrest information from a tight-lipped contracting official about requirements.
In fact, Stan Sloane, CEO of government-contracting giant SRA International, has urged for bid-protest reform.
“While implemented to ensure transparency and accountability in the acquisition process,” he wrote in a 2009 editorial, “protests are costly to the government, taxpayers and business.” And making changes to the bid-protest process could go a long way toward the administration’s goals of cutting contracting dollars.
Michael Golden, a procurement lawyer for Washington, D.C., firm Pepper Hamilton reiterated that point. “Companies are protesting because they really don’t understand why they lost, and they assume the worst,” he told Federal Times.
The administration’s point person for government-industry relations is Office of Federal Procurement Policy Dan Gordon, whose “strongest direction to agencies has been to communicate more with businesses,” Federal Times reports.
Gordon has characterized his efforts to enhance communication between government and industry as a “myth-busting” campaign, because often federal program managers often believe a tight-lipped response is warranted or required by regulations.