With the end of the fiscal year approaching and the frequency of contract awards increasing, many government contractors will be focusing on post-award debriefings. The Department of Defense (DOD) implemented enhanced post-award debriefings last year, and contractors often have questions about the process. Below are five things contractors should know about enhanced debriefings, which can be beneficial to a government contractor before becoming involved in a bid protest.
- Enhanced debriefings are limited to DOD agencies. Civilian agency debriefings have not changed and are still governed by FAR 15.506.
- The enhanced debriefing procedures apply to post-award debriefings. This means that a contractor is not entitled to an enhanced debriefing if it is eliminated from the competitive range but an award decision has not yet been made.
- The enhanced debriefing gives a disappointed offeror the opportunity to ask additional questions. At the end of the debriefing, the contractor has two business days to submit follow-up questions. The agency is supposed to respond within five days of receiving the questions. If the agency is delayed in responding, the contractor may want to follow up in writing to confirm that the debriefing has not concluded. The agency’s response to the supplemental questions concludes the debriefing and starts the clock for filing a timely protest and obtaining the automatic stay of performance under the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA).
- The enhanced debriefing rules do not impact GAO’s timeliness rules. In procurements where a debriefing is required, GAO’s rules require a disappointed offeror to file a protest within 10 days of the debriefing’s conclusion. With an enhanced debriefing, the deadline is 10 days from when the agency responds to the follow-up questions and closes the debriefing. The time period is not shortened simply because the protester obtained an enhanced debriefing.
- The enhanced debriefing rules do not change the requirements to obtain an automatic stay of performance. Under CICA, if the agency receives notice of a post-award GAO protest within 10 days of award or five days of a required debriefing, whichever is later, the Contracting Officer is required to suspend performance. With an enhanced debriefing, if the protest is filed within five days of the agency’s response to the follow-up questions and the conclusion of the debriefing, the requirement to obtain the CICA stay is met.
Receiving an unsuccessful offeror letter is always disappointing, and filing a protest may be top of mind. Enhanced debriefings can be a valuable source of information to support a protest, and understanding the enhanced debriefing rules is critical for that effort.