How does an AF Extended Debriefing work?
In an effort to dissuade unsuccessful offerors from filing protests (particularly where they file solely as a means to get government documents), the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration give an unsuccessful offeror the opportunity to participate in an extended, or enhanced, debriefing in appropriate cases. As a general rule, standard debriefings provided pursuant to FAR 15.505 and FAR 15.506 often do not provide unsuccessful offerors with enough information to ascertain whether their proposal was properly evaluated by the government. While a standard debriefing may provide limited feedback on strengths, weaknesses, and deficiencies in a proposal, it does not generally provide a cohesive explanation for the rationale underlying the Government’s evaluation conclusions and contract award decision. This leaves unsuccessful offerors very frustrated and may cause them to speculate as to why they were eliminated from a competitive range or did not otherwise receive a contract award. Often, these unsuccessful offerors will submit a protest simply as a fishing expedition—to obtain Government documents that set forth the rationale for the award.
Extended debriefings may be a solution to this problem under the right circumstances. Extended debriefings offer a transparent debriefing process whereby the Government provides an unsuccessful offeror’s outside counsel with information that is otherwise protected to fully explain the Government’s decision, either to eliminate an offeror from the competitive range or to award to another offeror. Most of the time, the information that is provided involves source-selection documents that address the unsuccessful offeror’s complaints. These are documents that the unsuccessful offeror’s outside counsel would receive pursuant to a GAO protective order if the offeror submits a GAO protest. By putting the discovery cart before the horse–that is, by offering up specific source selection documents, or even the full agency record before a GAO bid protest can be filed–an offeror’s outside counsel is provided with enough information from which to ascertain that the evaluation process was fair and impartial and, consequently, can communicate to the unsuccessful offeror that the award decision is rationally based. Thus far, it has been the FAA’s and the Air Force’s experience that extended debriefings frequently result in the offeror’s counsel dissuading the offeror from filing a protest, or in some cases, actually withdrawing a previously-filed protest.