GAO Bid Protests: Trends and Analysis [July 21, 2015]   [open pdf - 517KB]

"Bid protests on federal government contracts filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have received congressional scrutiny due to protests of high-profile awards and reports that the number of protests is increasing. Concerns over delays in contract award or performance triggered by a GAO protest, coupled with the increasing number of GAO protests, have prompted concerns about the potential impact of protests upon government agency operations, especially in the Department of Defense (DOD). Both the House- and Senate- passed versions of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act call for a report on the bid protest process. There has been a significant shift in bid protest trends over the last six years. When compared to the rate of government spending, bid protests decreased from FY2001-FY2008, and increased from FY2008-FY2014. From FY2008-FY2014, total government spending, adjusted for inflation, decreased 25% while total protests increased 45%. The rate at which GAO sustains protests has also seen a significant shift in recent years. From FY2001-FY2008 GAO sustained protests in 22% of their opinions; from FY2009-FY2014 that number dropped to 17%. These numbers suggest that while companies are more likely to file a bid protest, they are somewhat less likely to win a bid protest. […] Analysts believe that protests are sometimes the result of poor communication between government and industry, poorly written requirements, and agencies not adequately debriefing losing bidders after an award. When agencies do not adequately debrief bidders, companies may file a protest to determine why they lost a competition. If poor communication results in bid protests, improving agency communication, clarity, and debriefs could result in fewer protests."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40227
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