Next, be aware that the regulations list what, at a minimum, must be covered at or in (the debriefing can be done in writing) the debriefing. For pre-award debriefings, the list is short but includes reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether the source selection procedures in the solicitation, the regulations and "applicable authorities" (case law) were followed. Information about other offerors is prohibited in pre-award debriefings.
Post award debriefings require the government to provide the contractor the following information:
- The government's evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in your proposal;
- The overall evaluated price (including unit prices) and technical rating of the successful offeror and your proposal and your past performance information;
- The overall ranking of all offerors;
- A summary of the rationale for award;
- For commercial buys, the make and model of the item proposed by the successful offeror;
- Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether the source selection procedures in the solicitation, the regulations and relevant case law were followed.
What are the questions you should ask? Put them in your written request for the debriefing. Many, if not most debriefings these days are in writing (an unfortunate development). So, you must include the questions up front. In fact, remind the government in your written request that it is mandatory that the government follow the list of required items in its debriefing.
The evaluation factors are of paramount importance. Fashion your questions around the evaluation criteria to elicit responses which address whether the evaluation criteria were in fact followed. Failure to follow those factors is a primary ground for protest. Ask questions about whether the procedures in FAR 15.304, 305, 306, 307 and 308 were followed. Tailor your questions and be as specific as possible based on your best intelligence regarding what apparently happened during the pre-award process.
Above all, treat the debriefing as seriously as you did your proposal. Press for a full and fair debriefing including, most importantly, answers to your well thought out questions.
We've written several articles about debriefings, mostly suggesting improvements in the process. You can find them by entering "debriefing" in the Google search box in the upper left hand corner. One thing we feel strongly about is the need for the government to release the source selection decision to the contractor requesting the debriefing, preferably before the debriefing. We continue to believe this would make the debriefing meaningful and probably reduce frivolous or "blind" protests.