Protesting: Pick Your Battles

Protesting: Pick Your Battles

The Government Accountability Office, GAO, recently released its Bid Protest Annual Report for FY 17.  If you are involved in the Federal procurement process, there are several points to take away from the report:

1. “Government error” is a chance for partial “do-over”: In fewer than 20% of the protest decisions did GAO determine that the protestor’s position or argument showed that the Government had done something wrong in the process.  In these cases, the GAO recommended a “do-over” of some part of the award decision process. 

While the decision is a mark in the “win” column for protests, the firm that submitted the protest does not get the award. The decision result is a recommendation by GAO, not a mandate, which can span from the agency reviewing the initial award decision based on current proposals, to allowing the protestor and perhaps other firms to submit additional information for the agency to consider prior to making a second, new, award decision.

A 1 in 5 chance of winning (20%) – pretty steep odds; better than the Powerball lottery, but a risky investment of resources, time and money.

2. “Relief” is a promise to review: Looking to put a better face on “success” when protesting, GAO calculates an “effectiveness rate” for cases, when a protester gains some form of “relief.”  Relief as in, the agency determined to take corrective action prior to GAO issuing a decision.  By this measure, a protester obtains relief in 47% of the cases.  Corrective action can range from the agency conducting closed-door review of the initial award decision, to asking for offerors to submit changes to its proposal.


• 20% chance of finding government error

•  47% chance of “relief”

Neither of those outcomes results in a contract or task/delivery order win. They do get a commitment that the agency will take another look at how it determined the initial winner. 

If your definition of “winning” is anything more than an ice-pack on a bruised ego, then protesting may be worth it.  But, truly “winning” a protest is a long shot.  Is the time, stress and money required to file a protest worth it?  Spend your money on a Powerball ticket.


About the Author: 
Mickey Jones is Senior Vice President for Acquisition Strategy at Evermay Consulting Group. During his 31-year tenure as a federal employee, Mr. Jones had leadership roles in acquisitions at the departments of Interior, Treasury and Homeland Security.  Mr. Jones’ last position with the Federal government was with DHS as the Director of the Office of Procurement Operations.  He was the architect for this large acquisition office which supports the Secretary’s Office and several components including the Undersecretary for Management and Assistant Secretary for S&T and Assistant Secretary for NPPD. Mr. Jones was active in the planning for the EAGLE I and FirstSource contracts.

For more than a decade, Evermay Consulting Group has provided advisory services to firms looking to enhance their understanding of DHS and other agencies' missions. With services now including Capture and Proposal, Evermay is uniquely poised to offer clients holistic insight from across the breadth of the procurement system, from mission, to direction and how opportunities play into the whole. Our team is comprised of former government acquisition and industry program leaders who have not only lived the mission, but have been agents of change from within the government procurement system itself.  Evermay’s unbiased dedication to mission and mentorship has made them actively-sought advisors who daily help meet the challenges of homeland protection.