Protests are challenges to the terms of a solicitation, an award decision, or a decision to cancel a solicitation or award. FAR 33.101 specifically defines a protest as:
Protest means a written objection by an interested party to any of the following:
(1) A solicitation or other request by an agency for offers for a contract for the procurement of property or services.
(2) The cancellation of the solicitation or other request.
(3) An award or proposed award of the contract.
(4) A termination or cancellation of an award of the contract, if the written objection contains an allegation that the termination or cancellation is based in whole or in part on improprieties concerning the award of the contract.
Only interested parties may file a protest, and generally that means a person or company whose direct economic interest has been or would be affected by the protest issues. Proposed subcontractors, and other companies that did not submit proposals before the due date, are not interested parties. Typical issues that parties raise fall into two catagories, pre-award protests and post-award protests.
Pre-award protests generally raise issues about the terms of the solicitation. They may challenge an interpretation of specific language in the solicitation, or decisions to restrict the competition in one way or another. Post-award protests typically challenge the evaluation process by arguing that the agency failed to follow the evaluation criteria; the evaluation violated procurement law, regulation, or policy; or the award decision was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Another type of post-award protest is a challenge to the size or eligibility of an awardee to receive a contract set-aside for small businesses or other special classes of businesses.
Protests may be filed at a variety of forums. Many Agencies have a process for filing an informal protest initially with a designated contracting officer or other official. See Ch.09, Agency-Level Protests. Protests for agencies subject to the FAR typically are filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (see Ch.10) or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (see Ch.12). Protests that concern Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) solicitations are filed at the Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition (ODRA). See Ch.11, ODRA Protests. Protests involving small business status relating to FAR contracts are filed at the Small Business Administration.
Finally, Chapter 13 discusses a special ombudsman process applicable to the unique circumstances that arise under multiple award indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracting. It also explains the U.S. Postal Service protest and ADR processes.
Subpages (5): Ch.09 – Agency-Level Protests Ch.10 – GAO Protests Ch.11 – ODRA Protests Ch.12 – Ct. of Fed. Claims Ch.13 – Other Avenues