DOE’s Open Book

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses an “open book” debriefing approach for a small segment of very large procurements. The open book approach has DOE providing the entire evaluation record (e.g., technical, past performance and cost) and the selection record (the selection decision) to all the offerors as part of the post award debriefing process. Because information is disclosed about the particulars of other offerors’ evaluation and offers, this type of debriefing can only happen if all the offerors agree to the process. DOE has used varying forms of this debriefing, including providing evaluation information to employees of the offerors and providing the procurement record to outside counsel.

The open book approach begins with seeking the unanimous consent from the offerors. DOE seeks this consent before award, by informing the offerors about the process and requesting their consent. In order to ensure that the offerors do not feel that their decision whether to participate will affect the source selection, DOE designates a person who is not the selection official or an evaluator to receive the answer from the offerors and report only whether there is or is not unanimous consent. If there is no unanimous consent, the standard debriefing process is followed.

If there is unanimous consent, the parties sign agreements that permit specified personnel to have access to the information, describe what information will be provided, and specifying limits on further disclosure of the information. Once signed, and after award, the debriefing process takes on two parts. Initially, there is the standard debriefing provided to an offeror. Immediately, upon completion of the first part for a specific offeror, the individuals permitted access for that offeror receive access to the evaluation record under the terms of the agreement. That ends the debriefing.

The open book approach is not appropriate for all procurements. DOE has most often used this approach for its large management and operating contract procurements, which are not repetitive requirements and include limited cost information. DOE has also used this approach after taking corrective action, where GAO has issued a protective order and the parties have counsel who have had access to the record in the initial protest.