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Eight Rules to Position Yourself For A Successful Debriefing

Rule 1: Know what kind of debriefing you are entitled to.

  • FAR Part 8 Federal Supply Schedule Request for Quotes: You are entitled to a “brief explanation” if the FSS award you lost was based on factors other than price alone. Unfortunately, FAR 8.405-2(d) gives no details on what exactly is a “brief explanation.”
  • FAR Part 13 Simplified Acquisitions: You are entitled to a more detailed “brief explanation.” The details are spelled out in FAR 13.106-3(d) and FAR 15.503(b)(2).
  • FAR Part 15 RFPs: You are entitled to a “Required Debriefing” – see details below.
  • FAR Part 16 IDIQ Orders over $5.5M: You are entitled to a “Required Debriefing” – see details below.

Rule 2: Get your request for a “required debriefing” in on time.

You have three days from the day you receive notice that you lost (FAR 15.503(b)) to get the contracting officer a written request for a required debriefing.

Rule 3: Know what information the FAR says you must get.

(1) The significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal;

(2) Rating of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror, and past performance information on the debriefed offeror;

(3) Ranking of all offerors;

(4) A summary of the rationale for award;

(5) The make and model of the commercial item;

(6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.

Rule 4: Ask “relevant” questions.

The DoD Debriefing Guide (http://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/policy/policyvault/USA004370-14-DPAP.pdf) identifies some good questions you can ask at a debriefing. For example, regarding the Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in your proposal, you can ask the Government to “explain the basis for the strengths, weaknesses, or deficiencies in our proposal for each evaluation factor and subfactor.”

Rule 5: Know what information the contracting officer cannot give you.

You must have realistic expectations about what information the Government is allowed to give you at a debriefing. For example, the Government can’t give you a page-by-page analysis of your proposal; a comprehensive point-by-point comparison of your proposal and the successful offeror’s proposals or a side by side, detailed, rating comparison among the offerors; or a debate on the Government’s award decision. Such disclosures are prohibited per FAR 15.506(e).

Rule 6: Understand the agency’s mindset at a debriefing.

It’s very important to understand the mindset of the contracting officer and the other agency employees conducting the debriefing. The reality is that these government employees are overworked and could see debriefings as another burden they have to carry. In addition, they are worried that disclosure of too much information could lead to protests or, even worse, personal liability for releasing protected information.

Rule 7: Use the debriefing to build a relationship with the agency.

Use a debriefing as a marketing device. Rather than see a debriefing as an adversarial encounter, why not use the debriefing to build a relationship with agency personnel that could help you get the work the next time?

Rule 8: Know the odds of winning the lost contract.

One reason to use the debriefing as a marketing device is that the odds of ultimately winning the contract following even a successful protest are not very good. Limited recent data suggests that protestors ultimately won award of the contract in only 12 percent of protests filed at GAO.

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