Getting a Procurement FAR 15.506 Debriefing Before Filing a Bid Protest
An agency post-award FAR part 8 debrief occurs when you have participated in bidding for government contracts awards and receive an unsuccessful offeror letter. In your request, the Agency should tell you about your proposal and provide you with important feedback.
A common problem occurs when contractors guess incorrectly when they should toll the time to file a bid protest. Most companies are aware of the rule that the deadline to file a bid protest at GAO is typically 10 days. However, landmines await companies who are not sure when a debriefing letter does not stop or postpone the protest filing deadline.
- Failure to follow the correct rules means that your protest may be untimely and may be dismissed.
The Agency should tell you both the negative and positive about your proposal. Oftentimes, a FAR debriefing in procurement can provide insights as to why you received the stated evaluation score from the agency.
- The purpose of a debriefing is to furnish the basis for the selection decision and contract award.
FAR. 15.506 Post award debriefing of Offerors – Was Your FAR Debriefing Sufficient?
(1) An offeror, upon its written request received by the agency within 3 days after the date on which that offeror has received notification of contract award in accordance with 15.503(b), shall be debriefed and furnished the basis for the selection decision and contract award.
(2) To the maximum extent practicable, the debriefing should occur within 5 days after receipt of the written request. Offerors that requested a postaward debriefing in lieu of a preaward debriefing, or whose debriefing was delayed for compelling reasons beyond contract award, also should be debriefed within this time period.
(3) An offeror that was notified of exclusion from the competition (see 15.505(a)), but failed to submit a timely request, is not entitled to a debriefing.
(i) Untimely debriefing requests may be accommodated.
(ii) Government accommodation of a request for delayed debriefing pursuant to 15.505(a)(2), or any untimely debriefing request, does not automatically extend the deadlines for filing protests. Debriefings delayed pursuant to 15.505(a)(2) could affect the timeliness of any protest filed subsequent to the debriefing.
(b) Debriefings of successful and unsuccessful offerors may be done orally, in writing, or by any other method acceptable to the contracting officer.
(c) The contracting officer should normally chair any debriefing session held. Individuals who conducted the evaluations shall provide support.
(d) At a minimum, the debriefing information shall include –
(1) The Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable;
(2) The overall evaluated cost or price (including unit prices), and technical rating, if applicable, of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror, and past performance information on the debriefed offeror;
(3) The overall ranking of all offerors, when any ranking was developed by the agency during the source selection;
(4) A summary of the rationale for award;
(5) For acquisitions of commercial products, the make and model of the product to be delivered by the successful offeror; and
(6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.
(e) The debriefing shall not include point-by-point comparisons of the debriefed offeror’s proposal with those of other offerors. Moreover, the debriefing shall not reveal any information prohibited from disclosure by 24.202 or exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) including –
(1) Trade secrets;
(2) Privileged or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques;
(3) Commercial and financial information that is privileged or confidential, including cost breakdowns, profit, indirect cost rates, and similar information; and
(4) The names of individuals providing reference information about an offeror’s past performance.
(f) An official summary of the debriefing shall be included in the contract file
Should You Get a Post Award Debriefing under FAR Part 8 or FAR Part 15?
Both as the awardee or unsuccessful offeror, you should promptly ask for a post award debriefing. This is especially true if you receive an unsuccessful offeror letter. You get to learn your strengths and weaknesses and other information about the evaluation process. Note that required debriefings come under FAR Part 15.
- You have the opportunity to gather the information that will help you to adequately prepare your bid protest letter.
- As the awardee, if you receive a debriefing, and the award is protested, you can help your intervenor/defense attorney by the information received at the debriefing.
When to Submit a Request for FAR Debriefing?
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provides guidelines for FAR debriefing contractors after the award or cancellation of a government contract. If you want to request a debriefing, you should do so within the specific timeframes outlined in the FAR. The timing of the request depends on whether you are an unsuccessful offeror or a contract awardee.
1. Unsuccessful Offeror: If you submitted a proposal but were not selected for the contract award, you have two options for requesting a debriefing:
a. Pre-award Debriefing: If the debriefing is requested before contract award, you must submit your request within three days after receiving notice of exclusion from the competitive range or within three days after the debriefing date offered by the agency, whichever is later.
b. Post-award Debriefing: If the debriefing is requested after contract award, you must submit your request within three days after receiving the award decision.
2. Contract Awardee: If you are the successful offeror and want to request a debriefing to gain insights into your contract performance or to understand the evaluation process, you should submit your request within three days of receiving the contract award.
It’s important to note that the FAR establishes these timelines as the minimum requirements for agencies to provide debriefings, but agencies may choose to offer longer timeframes for requesting debriefings. It’s advisable to review the specific solicitation or contract for any deviations or additional instructions related to debriefing requests.
Additionally, please be aware that the information provided is based on the knowledge available up until September 2021, and there might have been updates or changes to the FAR since then. It is always recommended to consult the most recent version of the FAR and seek legal advice or contact the relevant contracting officer for accurate and up-to-date information regarding debriefing requests.
Both pre-award debriefings and Post award debriefings must be submitted to the Contracting Officer in writing. (Sending a Fax with a received receipt is suggested).
- Pre award debriefings must be made within three days after receipt of the notice to be excluded from competition.
- Post-award debriefing requests must be submitted within three days after the date on which you received the unsuccessful offer letter.
- You should submit your request for a required debriefing no later than 3 days after receiving notice of adverse action for government contract awards.
Whether you are looking to file a pre-award protest or post-award protest, if you submit an untimely request for an agency debriefing letter, the agency may or may not choose to provide it to you. See FAR Part 15.505. The debriefing in the procurement process does not require the government to educate you as to whether you are entitled to a required debriefing of not. See Basics to File a GAO Bid Protest Against Federal Contracting Agencies.
What Can the Government Tell You During a FAR Debriefing?
Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies
Getting a FAR debriefing before filing a bid protest should be an informal dialogue, contractors are sometimes allowed to ask questions. However, the is a limit to what the government can tell you. The following is a summary of points that should be covered in an agency debriefing.
- The overall evaluated cost price
- Technical Rating
- Past performance
- Who the successful offeror is and the compared scores between you and the awardee.
What You Will Not Get in a Debriefing?
- A point-by-point comparison of the awardee’s proposal against yours.
- A detailed discussion of the Agency’s source selection plan;
- Opportunity to supplement the information in your proposal.
The reason for the agency debriefing in procurement is to communicate with the contracting agency and get relevant information early in time to decide whether or not you want to file a GAO bid protest or file in another forum. Remember, it must be a REQUIRED debriefing. See GAO Protest Deadlines – How to Meet Them
A GAO bid Protest will be sustained if the agency provided material information concerning solicitation requirements to a single competitor in a post-award debriefing and then the agency subsequently reopened the competition without providing the other competitors with the same information. See SYMVIONICS, Inc., B-293824.2.
Know When the Agency Has Finished Your Post Award FAR Part 15 Debriefing
When you attend a debriefing after a government contracts award, you should pay strong attention to when the agency post award debriefing is actually over. If you receive a written debriefing, see if it actually states that it is concluded. If not, ASK.
- Waiting for answers to follow-up questions may not continue to toll the ten-day filing requirement.
- If you mistakenly allowed the GAO filing deadline to lapse, your only option may be to file a Court of Claims bid protest.
- An example is if after you ask some questions, the Contracting Officer tells you that she will “get back to you.”
This actually occurred in the case of Zafer Constr. Co.; Tourism, Indus. And Trading Co., Inc., B-295903,B-295903.2, 2005 CPD ¶ 87 (Comp. Gen. 2005). The FAR protest after award. was ruled untimely.
Does a Required DebriefinG Under FAR 15.506 Toll the Deadline for Filing a Bid Protest?
Yes, a required debriefing under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR 15.506) can toll (suspend) the deadline for filing a bid protest. The purpose of tolling the protest filing deadline is to allow the offeror to obtain information and feedback during the debriefing process, which may address any concerns or issues that could potentially lead to a bid protest.
When a required debriefing is provided, the protest filing deadline is typically extended to a specified number of days after the debriefing is conducted. The exact timeframe for the extension may vary depending on the circumstances and agency regulations. The rationale behind tolling the deadline is to give the offeror an opportunity to review the debriefing information and evaluate whether there are grounds for filing a bid protest based on the information received.
Important Contractor Tips
- As a government contractor, you are entitled to reasonable responses to relevant questions during a post award and pre-award debriefing. Many agencies tend to give “canned” responses and may fail to meet the “reasonableness” test. Claiming that there was an inadequate debriefing in procurement is not a recognized reason to file a bid protest, courts, including GAO has recognized that the contracting agency’s failure to provide reasonable responses to relevant questions “may unnecessarily cause an unsuccessful offeror to file a protest in order to obtain such information.” See Del-Jen Educ. & Training Grp./Fluor Fed. Sols. LLC, B-406897.3, May 8, 2014, 2014 CPD ¶ 166 n.5.
- FAR 15.506(d) requires the Government to let contractors know of any significant weaknesses or deficiencies identified in their proposal. You should stick to certain questions that are relevant to the evaluation at hand. Stick to questions about specific weaknesses and deficiencies and may why did you get a strength for a specific part of your bid proposal.
- Companies must realize that FAR 15.506(e) forbids contracting agencies from giving you “point-by-point comparisons” of your proposal with those of other offerors in a procurement debriefing.
Avoid Three Costly Mistakes
Agency is not responding to you? If you have requested a post award debriefing and the agency is not getting back to you or is slow on setting the date, you may want to quickly check the solicitation to see whether the solicitation was a negotiated procurement under FAR 15.
- If the procurement was negotiated under FAR Part 15, then it is more than likely a “required debriefing.”
- If not under FAR 15, then you may want to play it safe and apply the ten-day protest filing requirement from the date you were aware of the adverse action.
- Do not think that all requests for debriefings stop the clock for filing a bid protest.
Tip: If you have mistakenly passed the ten-day filing deadline, they may want to consider filing a Court of Federal Claims Bid Protest.
Tip: Do not defer competitive range debriefings until after award.
Tip: Accept the first available date for an agency debriefing
For additional questions about getting an agency pre award protest or post award debriefing under FAR Part 8 and FAR Part 15.506 or filing a protest, call our bid protest lawyers at 1-866-601-5518.
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