Protests are back in the news, although they never really left. I have been writing about this issue for some time (here and here), but the problem has only exploded in the last five years with the economic implosion, and now sequestration and budgeting Armageddon possible on the horizon.
A recent report from IBM’s Center for the Business of Government also highlight similar issues, but some of the recommendations made in the report are either not realistic or have no chance at implementation.
The current state of the acquisition workforce, and I am including the program office who will (or should) be evaluating a proposal, simply will not allow many of these recommendations to see the light of day.
The report should have focused on the only issues that need leadership support, which is to create confidence in the contract award decision, and to ensure industry understands the requirements, evaluation criteria, and why they did not win a contract.
Nonetheless, the current state of affairs when it comes to protests is only going to worsen unless accountability is brought into the fray.
Looking at the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on protests, it is hard to not think that protests are out of control. Here is where I strongly agree with IBM’s report, as I have been an advocate of protest accountability for some time. How can one argue that some protests are not simply frivolous? I know of a company, an incumbent on a contract that lost a recompete, who admitted filing a frivolous protest to bilk the government for another three months of revenue while GAO made the decision. The basis for the protest bordered on absurd, but how often does that happen? More often than you think. It is a business decision no doubt, but only at the expense of the taxpayers and the mission.
Protests are disruptive, and firms need to be held accountable for reimbursing the government for losing protest after protest. Further, this is a demonstration of a bad actor, and should also be included in a firm’s past performance rating.
Conversely, firms should automatically be compensated for protests fees should they be upheld. It is a two-way street, and needs to be treated as such.
Protests are a fundamental right by a firm to correct a deficiency by the government. However, the data indicate that this right is being abused. Let’s bring this situation under control, and move forward.