November 20, 2012

Law360 quotes Paul Debolt on increase of GAO protests as contract opportunities shrink

2 min

Law360 quoted Venable partner Paul Debolt in an article on November 19, 2012, on the increase of bid protests submitted by companies to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in hopes of procuring shrinking government contract opportunities. Over the past ten years the annual number of bid protests to the GAO has more than doubled.

Commenting on the rise in protests, Debolt said "With the potential for additional reductions in federal spending, contractors are going to fight harder to keep their contracts or win new work. If they don't protest an award, there's no guarantee that there's another opportunity coming up behind it." He added that "incumbent service contractors have even more motivation to protest — bringing a case to the GAO puts an automatic stay on contract actions during the GAO proceedings, which can give an incumbent up to 100 days of additional work even if it ultimately loses."

Debolt said "In the past, contractors may have been more mindful of their relationships with agencies when deciding whether to protest, sometimes declining to protest because they knew other opportunities were coming up. But, as long as a protest isn't frivolous, contractors are less likely to worry about offending an agency and more willing to fight for contracts."

He suggested that "One trend that could slow the growth of bid protests is the government's push toward evaluating bids for goods or services on a 'lowest-cost, technically acceptable' standard." He explained that "Under that standard, protests would rely on effort to disqualify a rival's proposals as technically unacceptable, which is a very high bar to clear. The government has a lot of discretion, so those can be a bigger challenge to protest."