Critical Read

Bid protest problems overblown, says former OFPP head

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What: A new research paper on federal bid protests for the American Bar Association by Dan Gordon, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Why: Bid protests are not as common as believed and could be more asset than liability to U.S. federal procurement, according to Gordon, who is now associate dean for government procurement law at George Washington University.

The Government Accountability Office counts federal bid protests in such a convoluted way, says Gordon, that the protest process is perceived to be overly complex and extensive. Specifically, his 49-page report says that between pre- and post-award protests, as well as supplemental filings in between, the GAO is double or even triple-counting some contract protests. That inflated count, says Gordon, can result in a perception that tens of thousands of protests filed each year.

Gordon asserts that the total number of protests is no more than a couple of thousand a year. Crunching government numbers, he calculates that in 2006 only 1.92 protests resulted from each $1 billion in federal procurement spending. In 2011 the number was a bit higher, 2.74 per $1 billion.

Additionally, using data from a total of 200,000 Air Force contracts in 2008, Gordon concludes that only ½ of 1 percent of all government contracts are actually protested.

Verbatim: "Since the days when protest filings were tracked on 3 x 5 cards, the GAO has counted cases in a manner that can cause people to believe that protest numbers are higher than they actually are."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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