With bid protests increasing by almost 50 percent since 2008, many industry observers and policymakers may be tempted to place the blame for procurement slowdown — particularly in the defense industry — squarely on the contractors. Yet to do so to the exclusion of the other key player in this equation — the Defense Department — ignores that bid protests have proliferated largely as a result of the way government does business.
It may be the case that some government contractors file frivolous protests in order to hang onto a contract they once held but subsequently lost, or in an effort to extract concessions from the government, such as the opportunity to start or continue work while the protest is resolved. However, bid protests are a game of high-stakes poker for most contractors. Protests are expensive, and protestors are prohibited from billing their protest costs against their contracts.
Even if the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustains a protest (and awards the successful protestor its protest costs), a contractor may still need to go through the bidding process all over again, and there is no guarantee that it will win the second time around. In addition, the GAO retains the power to summarily dismiss a protest it deems frivolous, ultimately rendering any effort put into filing a protest a waste of resources. In other words, bid protests do not just slow down the government; they also slow down business for contractors.
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