Guerra: Bid protests as a business strategy

In a recent column in FCW I suggested that maybe it was time we as a community came together to figure out why there are so many protests of information technology acquisitions lately. Well, the answer came in my e-mail the other day. Some company is actually conducting a seminar titled “A Successful Bid Protest Can Produce a Contract Win.”

Yes, for a mere $350, the e-mail states, “This seminar will give federal salesmen and sales managers the information that they need to use the bid protest process as part of a successful sales strategy. The seminar is unique in teaching protests from the salesman's perspective.”

They go on to say that there are “types of losses that you should almost always protest.” Not that you should only protest when you believe that a procurement was improperly conducted, or that the request for proposals was intentionally structured to award to a particular company irrespective of their real ability to perform. No, they suggest, we should protest based upon the type of loss you experience.

It is appalling that in a time when government acquisition personnel are under increased stress to conduct ever more complex acquisitions, we as a community should seek ways to protest more contract awards. It isn’t bad enough that we already have protests that in many cases are “fishing expeditions.” Now we want sales reps and managers pursuing protests as a way to make their quotas.

From the seminar summary, one would think that all one needs to do is file a protest and that nothing serious happens. Well, sure, submitting a protest is easy and not too expensive. The initial document, if properly structured by outside counsel, can cost your company as little as $10,000. But it’s that cumbersome thing called discovery, which leads to reviews, revisions and updates to your protest, that ends up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You also run the risk of alienating your customer, which must deal with the program delays and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend its award decision.

How about an alternative seminar? Maybe one that says “Protest a contract award only when you are absolutely certain that a procurement was unfairly conducted and you are sure that the protest is not disrupting a mission critical function.”

I think I’ll take my $350 and donate it to the National Institutes of Health's Children’s Inn. That seems a much more worthwhile investment.

Guerra is a partner at the consulting firm Guerra and Kiviat.

About the Author

Robert J. Guerra is a partner at the consulting firm Guerra and Kiviat.

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