Can Communications Prevent Protests?

I was interested in hearing from both the vendor and 1102 community on the “triggers” of a protest, and if any best practices could be conducted to avoid a protest or avoid a protest from being upheld.

The post on GovLoop and LinkedIn elicited some great feedback, although it was interesting to see the source of the comments (e.g. industry or government). Although the comments from industry focused on debriefs, government commentors focused on process. Nonetheless, a few best practices that government should exercise were understood by all:

  1. Keep the evaluation as simple as possible;
  2. Tell the offerors exactly what you are going to evaluate;
  3. Evaluate exactly what you told the offerors you were going to evaluate; and when the source selection is over,
  4. Tell the offerors exactly what you did evaluate (and ensure it’s what you said you were going to do—no more, no less).

If the playing field is kept level for all players and the government has a reasonable rationale for source selection decisions, a protest may not be avoided, but the government will “win” by having the protest denied.

Nonetheless, in today’s budget constrained environment, more companies are vying for fewer available government dollars, resulting in more protests. In the past, companies may have been hesitant to file a protest because there was another opportunity coming up or concerned about the relationship with the agency, but now the mentality is “throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.”

Here is the where the divergence exists, in regards to debriefs. Industry continues to complain about the seemingly lack of transparent and quality debriefs, or being told no debriefs because they are not required.


  • Would you say your agency conducts transparent debriefs that encourage relationships and communications?
  • Are your agency’s debriefs described as hostile and difficult by industry?
  • Are protests at your agency going up, and if so, why do you think that is?
  • If protests are going down or have been steady at your agency, what can you attribute to this decline or rate?

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Ron Falcone

I am curious to know the percentage of debriefs conducted for FAR Part 8 acquisitions (requiring an SOW) over the past few years especially since the issuance of Dan Gordon’s (OFPP) Mythbusters Memo. My expereicne over the past few years is the lack of debriefs still exists.


Pattie Buel

I think we have a tendency to put out just the info required by FAR and sometimes that hurts us. I tell you about your weaknesses and the perceived risks (significant or not) and you think that means if you can argue I misevaluated the info, you jump from an acceptable to an excellent and should win. But I didn’t tell you about the things your proposal didn’t have that kept you from getting a higher rating – details instead of generalizations; tailored response instead of boilerplate; demonstrated understanding instead of buzzwords. I wind up explaining all that in the Agency report instead of at debrief time.

I’d be interested in hearing from vendors who have withdrawn a protest after receiving an agency report on what they saw in the report that if they had heard in the debrief would have avoided the protest in the first place.

Ron Falcone

Great question Pattie. Sadly, because the Government delayed in providing a debrief, we had to submit a protest and after reviewing the agency report, we found discrepencies in the source selection process.