Shutdown could slow bid protest decisions


GSA is pushing ahead with its $60 billion One Acquisition Solutions for Integrated Services procurement program during the government shutdown, but closings at the Government Accountability Office and slowdowns at other agencies could present some issues for bid protestors.

While GAO closed its protest office along with the rest of the agency, other bid protest venues remain open. The Civilian Board of Contract Appeals said Oct. 1 it will remain open to accept filings during the shutdown. The U.S. Court of Federal Appeals said it would continue to hear and decide cases without interruption.

But the timing of the shutdown and the traditional end-of-fiscal year spike in contract awards could produce a backlog of protests and subsequent delays at GAO and potentially other agencies when the government opens up and work starts flowing again, said Angela Styles, a partner in Crowell & Moring's Washington, D.C., office and co-chair of the firm's Government Contracts Group.

The GAO notified the contracting community in an Oct. 1 notice that it was closing, along with its bid protest office, because of the shutdown. It said it wasn't picking up mail and had shut its fax machines off. It said it was, however, continuing to receive email at [email protected].

The GAO statement said there was no one monitoring protest filings at the agency during the shutdown. "GAO will endeavor to decide protests within 100 days of when they are filed. If necessary, decision deadlines will be extended one day for each day that GAO is closed."

It said bid protests filed on a day the agency is closed would be extended to the first day it reopens operations, in the same manner as deadlines that fall on holidays or weekends.

Rudy Sutherland, head of practice at Washington-based international financial advisory, program and venture management consultancy Aljucar, Anvil-Incus & Co., said the shutdown had no immediate impact on his firm's protest of the OASIS contract at the GAO. The company is arguing that GSA should open up one of the two OASIS contracts to allow teams of small businesses to compete against larger firms. He said, however, that if the shutdown lasts more than a week or so, it might end up pushing back the Oct. 10 proposal deadline, as GAO again takes up processing his protest.

Sutherland said he's also concerned about how GAO would handle the timing of bid protests -- for instance, how the agency would know if a bid was filed before a deadline. Normally, he said, protestors receive an email response within 24 hours of sending a protest that is time-stamped when it is filed. "There's no one to follow up with."

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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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