Recently, incumbent contractors are finding that they are losing more and more government contracts and bid protest. They also find it difficult to write more competitive government proposals that increase their filing a GAO bid protest as the incumbent contractorchances of follow-on contracts.

New Approach Needed

Writing a bid for the new project should capitalize on unique experiences that other proposals may not have. Although you must develop a technical approach to meet the new PWS requirement, incumbent contractors should consider the following above and beyond getting past performance ratings:

  • Make sure that the PWS does not include any changes when compared to the previous contract;
  • Focus on increasing strengths that exceed the RFP requirements;
  • Do not write your technical approach that primarily relies on your incumbency;
  • Include unique knowledge about the Agency operations and mission; and
  • Make sure to use the government’s historical data for technical and pricing.

Decision to File a Bid Protest

As an incumbent contractor, when you receive notification that you are not awarded the follow-on contract, an attempt to file a bid protest should be looked at with caution.

  • Your bid protest cannot primarily rest on the premise that you are the incumbent
  • You must focus on the Agency’s evaluation and whether the government followed the solicitation criteria. You have to show that it did not.
  • You should not file a GAO protest that attacks your past performance evaluation ratings as being unreasonable simply because you are the incumbent contractor. You have to do more in order to stand a chance of winning.

GAO Protest Case Focusing on Incumbent Status

The recent case in the Matter of: New Mexico State University, B-409566 shows how incumbent contractors can lose awards. In that case, NMSU was the longstanding incumbent contractor for the agency’s requirements.

Yet the incumbent lost the follow-on contract in the GAO protest. Federal contracting agencies are advertising RFPs to seek more competition.

  • As an incumbent, you should develop more competitive proposals and realign your bids to meet the government’s overall procurement goals.

In the NMSU case, GAO found that the government is not required to structure acquisitions in order to neutralize the competitive advantage of an incumbent, agencies may nonetheless use an evaluation method that attempts to foster competition by increasing the feasibility of a proposal being submitted by non-incumbent offerors. 

GAO cited Int’l Computaprint Corp., B-207466, Nov. 15, 1982, 82-2 CPD ¶  440 at 3. This was a case where a university was the incumbent contractor and even with a longstanding relationship and good past performance, they lost.

What Does This Decision Mean For Incumbent Contractors?

You simply have to do something different when writing your proposals. The bottom line is that as an incumbent contractor, you cannot simply rely on your existing relationship with the federal government to get follow-on contracts. Instead, you should focus on the PWS and solicitation requirements and try to include strengths and unique knowledge about the Agency’s mission, that other bidders may not be aware. Learn additional tips for protesting government contract awards.

  •  If you decide to file a protest, you simply have to show that the government failed to evaluate your proposal in accordance with the solicitation. Everything else will more than likely fail.

If you are an incumbent need help with filing a GAO protest or seeking better ways to write government proposals, call our bid protest lawyers and proposal consultants at 1-866-601-5518.