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Bid Protests Highest in 15 Years, According to GAO Report

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Bid protests — disputed federal contract awards — reached a 15-year high in 2010, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last week.

Contractors filed 2,299 protests, a 16 percent increase over the 1,989 challenges submitted in 2009, according to the GAO report.

It is the fourth year in a row bid protests have increased, Government Executive reports.

But government-contracting experts have offered up a number of varying explanations for the rise.

Robert Brodsky, of Gov Exec, writes that some experts attribute the increase to recent gains in federal procurement spending and increased values of individual contracts.

Ralph White, who leads GAO’s bid protest division, told Gov Exec as spending on contracts has reached near astronomical highs, the number of bid protests has increased as well.

For example, a 2009 Congressional Research Service report found that between 2001 and 2008, contract signings had increased nearly 600 percent and GAO saw a 37 percent jump in protests.

In other words, as the feds splurge on procurement, there are simply more pieces of the pie for contractors to compete for, these experts say.

However, the blog for the Legal Times spoke to a government contracting expert who said overall government spending cuts have likely reduced the available number of contracts on which companies can compete, making the competition more fierce.

“Whenever uncertainty about new contracts downstream becomes high, companies are more inclined to fight harder for the ones in front of them,” said Rand Allen, government contracts partner for the Wiley Rein law firm. “The next one might not be as certain. And it’s only going to get worse.”

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