How to Handle Post Award Debriefs
Most government contractors, whether new or experienced, understand the basics of the government procurement process. However, not all contractors understand what follows after the government makes their decision on award. Post award debriefs help a company understand what deficiencies and significant weaknesses were found in their proposal and understand why they were not awarded a contract. Continue reading to learn how to handle post award debriefs and reluctant contracting officers.
Review of Debriefing Regulations
Before diving into how to handle debriefings it is important to note that debriefings are required under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), specifically Part 15 and FAR 16.505(b). These sections explain that any contract awarded under the FAR, or any order exceeding $5 million under an IDIQ contract, requires a debriefing.
Debriefings are required to be offered to contractors, but they are by no means mandatory to participate in. While the government is required to notify all offerors and the winner of the award, it is up to both parties to decide if they would like a debrief.
An important note to make is that an offeror must decide to request a post award debrief within three days of being notified if they have won or lost an opportunity. This is important since you may be notified before the contract is officially awarded that you did not win the contract. This means that you must request the debrief within three days following this notice that you did not win the contract, not the three days following the official contact award notification. A contractor can also request that the debrief be officially held after formal award of the contract.
What to Avoid and Keep in Mind
During a debrief the contracting officer is going to be careful not to divulge any information that could be used in a formal protest of the award. This means that you should not go to the debrief ready to fish for information that will help you if you are planning to file a protest. Instead, remember that you are there to learn how to improve your future proposals and to help identify your weaknesses. Debriefs are there to help you enhance your business for future success, not to help you make your case for why you should have been chosen as the awardee.
A debriefing is all about you, your company’s weaknesses and the specifics of your company’s proposal. While you may be given some information to help compare yourself to the awardee such as their overall score, you will not be told the intimate details of their proposal. You may be able to overcome some barriers to the information by submitting a FOIA request, but again you will most likely run into a similar problem in the form of redacted information.
Debriefings can vary in manner, content, and length, but the main things to remember is to stay polite and non-accusatory. If you tend to target certain agencies there is a good chance that you will run into the same contracting officer on another proposal so you want to make sure you maintain a professional and friendly relationship with them. If the contracting officer seems reluctant to hold a debriefing perhaps try sending them an email with specific questions. Try to work with the officer as much as possible, not against them. At the end of the day post award debriefs are burdensome and difficult to navigate from both the contractor’s side and the government’s side. Remember that this is not an opportunity to try and convince the contracting officer that they made the wrong decision, but a time to learn more about how to improve your business.