So you lost a government contract, now what? As I explained in a previous post, a key next step is to request a debriefing to better understand the government’s decision. You’ll find out if you talked to the right people during the capture stage, if you had assembled the right people on your team, if your pricing was in line, etc.
This is all valuable information to improve your process for the next bid so you can move on from this loss to your future wins. There may be times, though, when you’re not ready to move on. You may think the government made a mistake and misevaluated your proposal – or the winner’s.
Should you protest your loss?
Filing a protest is a double-edged sword, and a serious step to consider. After all, no one likes to be wrong, and that includes the government. Your protest will create a lot of documentation and detail, and calls into question their decision and process.
Whether they like it or not, you do have the right to file a protest, as per Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Subpart 33. You can reference this detailed guide to procurement protests, via the Government Contractors Network.
So there are several factors that need to be considered when contemplating a protest. First – if you’re right, and they were to grant “relief,” would you win? Or even, could you win? For example, protesting a tech rating when your price is already too high, seems pyrrhic. You win the point (hooray, you’re right!), but you lose the contract anyways (ummm, not so good).
The other thing to consider is protests cost real cash capital, and they also cause negative relationship capital –the Government is delayed in what they decided to award, and you are the cause of that delay. As we mentioned earlier, no one likes being told they are wrong about something, including the Federal Government.
We protested once, many years ago. The Government was egregiously wrong, and we did win the contract. We protested later on a different contract, spent thousands in legal fees, and discovered our price was too high. They granted us our point but we lost anyways, and spent a lot of money. Now when we lose, we mostly try to learn the lessons about the agency, the opportunity, and our processes, and move on to doing it better the next time. That does save on legal fees.