Bias is a frequent bid protest argument, but it is often unsuccessful because government officials are presumed to act in good faith. To overcome that presumption, a protester must provide “convincing proof” of the alleged bias. A protester cannot rely on inference or supposition alone as evidence of a government official’s unfair or prejudicial motives.

Continue Reading Proving Bias in a Bid Protest

Contractors interested in contracts with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should be aware that FAA bid protests are different from protests involving other federal agencies. The FAA’s Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition has exclusive jurisdiction to resolve protests involving FAA procurements. Protest proceedings at ODRA are different from those at the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims.

Continue Reading The Seven Unique Features of a Protest Challenging an FAA Procurement

Last week the Army awarded Microsoft the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract, a potentially $21 billion undertaking by the Army to develop next-generation night vision and “situational awareness capabilities” in a Heads Up Display. Unlike Microsoft’s last multi-billion dollar contract award, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), which is still pending before the Court of Federal Claims more than a year after Amazon filed its bid protest challenging the award in November 2019, IVAS is unlikely to experience the same fate. Why? Because IVAS was awarded under the Army’s Other Transaction authority (OTA) and is not subject to the same FAR rules as the JEDI contract.

Continue Reading The Army’s Newest $21 Billion Contract Is Not Your Typical Government Contract

The automatic stay of award is one of the key elements of a bid protest under the Competition in Contracting Act. The CICA stay is only available when a protest is filed no later than ten days after contract award or no later than five days after a debriefing. In the 2018 NDAA (Section 818), Congress introduced the enhanced debriefing process for DoD procurements. It allows disappointed offerors to submit follow-up questions within two business days after a debriefing. It also extends the protest deadline until those questions are answered. But what if the contractor does not have any additional questions? Does the two-day period to submit questions extend the protest deadline for purposes of the CICA stay?

The Federal Circuit answered this question in NIKA Technologies, Inc. v. United States, Case No. 2020-1924 (Feb. 4, 2021). If a contractor does not submit follow-up questions after a debriefing, it does not get the benefit of the two-day question period for purposes of the CICA stay.


Continue Reading When must you protest to get an automatic stay after an enhanced debriefing?

In order to bring a bid protest in the Court of Federal Claims, you must have standing. To win the protest, you have to show prejudice. Although distinct, these two requirements are related and often confused. The Federal Circuit’s decision in American Relocation Connections, L.L.C. v. United States, No. 2019-1245 (Fed. Cir. Oct 2019), explains the difference between the “standing” needed to bring a bid protest and the “prejudice” needed to win.

Standing involves the threshold legal question of whether the protester has alleged a sufficiently direct economic interest to bring the case. It operates as a limit on the universe of plaintiffs eligible to file a protest. A protester has standing to challenge the award of a federal contract in the Court of Federal Claims only if it was an actual bidder or offeror that had a “substantial chance” of winning the contract. For pre-award protests, only a prospective offeror that would suffer a “nontrivial competitive injury” has standing to protest.

Unlike standing, “prejudice” is the ultimate factual question of whether the protester was actually harmed by a procurement error. Establishing prejudice is an element of the protester’s burden of proof. Without it, the protest will fail.


Continue Reading The difference between standing and prejudice in a federal bid protest

Bid protests on statewide and local public procurements in Arizona are allowed, in one form or another, if an unsuccessful offeror has both “standing” and a basis for protest. Protestors can seek to be awarded the contract or to have the solicitation thrown out and reissued, which in many cases is itself a success.

But winning a bid protest in Arizona is not easy. The process is designed to move quickly to promote efficient contracting and to limit protests. Failure to meet any of the strict procedural requirements can lead to outright dismissal or waiver of an argument. Even when a protester properly follows the procedure, the applicable legal standard is a high one. To win a protest in Arizona, a protestor needs to demonstrate that an award decision was “clearly erroneous, arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.”

The question is what does it take to win an Arizona protest? Here are four steps that can maximize a protester’s chance of success.
Continue Reading Four steps to winning an Arizona bid protest

When drafting small business joint venture agreements, the devil is in the details. A template JV agreement—like the one from the Small Business Administration—may not guarantee a JV’s eligibility for a contract award. The details of the agreement, like which contracts the JV will pursue and what each side will contribute, are critical.

Even if approved, a generic JV agreement may not survive a protest.

In CVE Protest of Veterans Contracting, Inc., the SBA’s Office of Hearings and Appeals sustained a protest challenging a JV’s status as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business because its JV agreement was too generic to establish the JV’s eligibility as an SDVOSB. The JV in that case (CRNTC) was a joint venture between CR Nationwide, LLC (the SDVOSB partner) and Trumble Construction, Inc.

The Department of Veterans Affairs approved CRNTC’s SDVOSB status for a period of three years in June 2018. The approval was based on the JV agreement between CR Nationwide and Trumble, which made CR Nationwide the majority owner. But the JV agreement did not identify any particular solicitation that CRNTC would pursue or otherwise outline what each partner would contribute to the JV. The agreement specified that the parties would identify the contract and scope of work at a later date and would set those out in a jointly executed statement that would be submitted to the relevant contracting authority.


Continue Reading The importance of specificity in small business joint venture agreements

If you are excluded from the competitive range in a procurement, you have a right to request a debriefing (within 3 days) to learn why. 41 U.S.C. § 3705(a). But the scope of that pre-award debriefing is more limited than a post-award debriefing. Pre-award debriefings cover the agency’s evaluation of “significant elements” of the excluded contractor’s offer, the rationale for the exclusion, and “reasonable responses to relevant questions” posed by the excluded offeror. 41 U.S.C. § 3705(d). But they expressly cannot cover the total number or identities of offerors, or the “content, ranking, or evaluation” of the other offerors’ proposals.  41 U.S.C. § 3705(e). That information is available only in post-award debriefings.  41 U.S.C. § 3704(c).  This difference in scope may create the temptation to delay a pre-award debriefing until after award in the hope that you will gain more information. But giving in to that temptation may preclude a protest at GAO.
Continue Reading Don’t delay a pre-award debriefing

GAO’s recent decision in HP Enterprise Services, LLC illustrates the challenges resulting from the recent changes to GAO’s task order protest jurisdiction. It also provides a useful overview of the current scope of GAO’s jurisdiction over such protests.  HP Enterprise Services, LLC—Reconsideration, B-413382.3 (January 26, 2017).

Here is a bit of background on the recent jurisdictional changes that led to the decision. GAO lost its jurisdiction over protests of civilian task and delivery orders valued at over $10 million on September 30, 2016. This was the “sunset date” established in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. GAO’s jurisdiction over such protests for military agencies or departments, or for protests alleging increased scope, period, or maximum value of the underlying contract, remained undisturbed in 2016.

For approximately three months, contractors had no forum (and therefore, no remedy) for protests of civilian task orders valued over $10 million. That changed on December 14, 2016, when the Government Accountability Office Civilian Task and Delivery Order Protest Authority Act of 2016 became law. See Public Law No. 114-779 (Dec. 14, 2016). This law restored GAO’s civilian task order protest jurisdiction to its pre-October 1, 2016 scope.

Less than two weeks later, the scope of GAO’s jurisdiction over task order protests changed yet again. On December 23, 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act became law. See Public Law No. 114-328 (Dec. 23, 2016). Although major changes aimed at limiting federal bid protests had been under discussion, most of the limiting provisions were not adopted. The 2017 NDAA did not change the $10 million threshold for protests of civilian agency task order awards. But it increased GAO’s jurisdictional threshold for military agency task order protests from $10 million to $25 million. Protests asserting that a task order award was improper because it exceeded the scope, the performance period, or the maximum value of the underlying contract can be filed without regard to the threshold.

HP gets caught in a jurisdictional trap

Like many government contractors, HP Enterprise Services was ensnared in these changes. On July 11, 2016, HP protested the award of a task order to CACI, Inc. The task order was issued by GSA, but it required the delivery of IT support services to DoD. GSA took corrective action soon thereafter, and the protest was dismissed as academic.
Continue Reading When can a contractor protest a task order at GAO?

GAO has published its decision denying multiple protests of the Defense Health Agency’s decision to award the T-2017 managed care support contracts to Humana Government Business, Inc. and Health Net Federal Services, LLC. Humana won the TRICARE contract for the east region with a total evaluated price of $40.7 billion. Health Net won the west region contract with a total evaluated price of $17.7 billion.

One of the key issues addressed in GAO’s decision was the challenge to Humana’s past performance rating. Anthem subsidiary WellPoint Military Care Corporation argued that DHA placed so much weight on prior experience as a TRICARE prime contractor that incumbency amounted to an unstated evaluation criterion. In WellPoint’s view, incumbency was the “golden ticket to attaining the highest Substantial Confidence rating.”

GAO found no merit to WellPoint’s argument. There was nothing in the record to suggest that DHA treated incumbency as an unstated evaluation criterion. Indeed, DHA considered WellPoint’s own past performance superior to that of two other incumbent TRICARE contractors—Health Net and UnitedHealth Military & Veterans Services, LLC.

GAO also rejected the legal basis for WellPoint’s argument. While incumbency is not necessarily a golden ticket, GAO also found that it was reasonable to give credit to Humana for its prior experience managing a large TRICARE regional contract. In GAO’s view, “it is not unreasonable for an agency to place particular emphasis on a firm’s performance as an incumbent contractor, since such performance may be reasonably viewed as a more accurate indication of likely future performance . . . .”

Incumbency is not necessarily a golden ticket, but it certainly can’t hurt.


Continue Reading Is incumbency a golden ticket to strong past performance? TRICARE’s $58 billion managed care support contracts