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  • Joshua Duvall

Debriefing Quick Tips

The end of FY2019 is around the corner, which means countless government contractors have recently received, or are patiently waiting to receive, an award decision from a Federal agency.


Likewise, some contractors are also waiting for their opportunity to receive a debriefing.  Under the FAR, for procurements conducted under FAR Part 15 or for task and delivery orders exceeding $5.5 million, Federal agencies are required to provide offerors––win or lose––with a debriefing if it is timely requested. [1]  Because debriefings are often viewed as a critical aspect of the procurement process, it's important to understand what you can expect to learn from a debriefing and what you can do to prepare for one.


At a basic level, a debriefing is an information gathering exercise.  For example, you can use a debriefing to glean insight into what aspects of your proposal the agency liked or disliked. This is significant because you can use that information to help improve your proposals in future procurements.  After all, what is not measured cannot be improved.


Still, you may also use a debriefing to assess whether the procurement was conducted in accordance with the terms of the solicitation and within the bounds of applicable law.  This can help you make a "go/no-go" decision on whether to file a protest to challenge the award.  If you are the awardee and decide to intervene in a protest challenging your award, the information you learn during a debriefing may be helpful in your protest defense. [2]  Besides information gathering, some contractors also use a debriefing to build relationships with agency personnel and to market their company for other contracting opportunities.


Given the strategic importance of debriefings, contractors should remember that agencies are only required to provide you with a debriefing if it is timely requested. [3]  To be timely, the agency must receive your written debriefing request "within 3 days" of receiving notification of contract award.  If your request is timely, the debriefing will be required.  On the other hand, if your request is not timely, the agency will not be required to provide you with a debriefing (discretionary). [4]  For required debriefings, the agency will provide one, "to the maximum extent possible," within 5 days of receiving your written debriefing request. [5]


With that in mind, the following is the minimum information that the agency is required to provide during your debriefing and some quick tips to help you prepare.


FAR § 15.506(d)


The agency is required to provide, at minimum, the following information during a debriefing:


  1. The Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable;

  2. The overall evaluated cost or price (including unit prices), and technical rating, if applicable, of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror, and past performance information on the debriefed offeror;

  3. The overall ranking of all offerors, when any ranking was developed by the agency during the source selection;

  4. A summary of the rationale for award;

  5. For acquisitions of commercial items, the make and model of the item to be delivered by the successful offeror; and

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


Debriefing Quick Tips


  • Always request a debriefing, win or lose

  • Take the first date offered

  • Timely request a debriefing within 3 days

  • Prior to the debriefing, review your proposal and the RFP (what the agency wanted, evaluation methodology, etc.)

  • Know what information the agency is required to disclose during the debriefing (and what the agency will not disclose) [6]

  • Prepare questions in advance

  • Take notes

  • Be polite; the debriefing is an information gathering exercise

  • In DoD procurements where a debriefing is conducted under FAR § 15.506, unsuccessful offerors also have enhanced debriefing rights [7]


Takeaway


The debriefing is a powerful tool for government contractors in procurements under FAR Part 15 and for task and delivery orders over $5.5 million.  Contractors often use debriefings to learn what the agency liked or disliked in your proposal, to learn about the agency's evaluation or decision, and to build relationships with agency personnel.  Contractors who approach debriefings thoughtfully and deliberately will likely be in a better position to take advantage of the information learned during the debriefing, whether it be to improve future procurements or to formulate possible bid protest strategies. Remember, what is not measured cannot be improved.


__________


[1]  See FAR § 15.506; see also FAR § 16.505(b)(6).


[2]  While not the subject of this post, successful bid protest grounds are typically rooted in procedural flaws in the procurement (e.g., failure to adhere to stated evaluation criteria, unrealistically low price, unequal treatment, etc.) rather than subjective differences with the agency's evaluation.  For contractors seeking to file a bid protest at the Government Accountability Office ("GAO"), or for awardees who have received notice that their award has been protested, check out GAO's bid protest page for more information (e.g., recent decisions, GAO bid protest regulations, etc.).


[3]  FAR § 15.506(a)(4).


[4]  Because GAO bid protest timeliness rules are sometimes tied to debriefings, contractors should review GAO's bid protest regulations and bid protest decisions for guidance.  For more information on debriefings, please check out some other articles on GovConJudicata: https://www.govconjudicata.com/home/tag/Debriefing.


[5]  FAR § 15.506(a)(2).


[6]  FAR § 15.506(e).


[7] Under DoD's enhanced debriefings, unsuccessful offerors will also have the option to "submit additional questions related to the debriefing within two business days after receiving the debriefing." As a result, the debriefing will not be over until the agency delivers its response.  See DoD Class Deviation No. 2018-O0011 (“Enhanced Postaward Debriefing Rights”).


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#govconjudicata #debriefing #bidprotest