Tuesday, June 5, 2012


The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has included guidance to best practices for communicating between industry and government in its myth busting memorandums. However, it has missed an opportunity in the critical area of debriefings to be more specific about what is to be discussed.

Myth-Busters (OFPP's preferred spelling) I did not discuss FAR 15.505 and 506 on debriefings, but it had this to say:
Misconception -- "A protest is something to be avoided at all costs -- even if it means the government limits conversations with industry."  Fact -- Restricting communication won't prevent a protest, and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest -- in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.
This was a great opportunity for OFPP to discuss best practices for debriefings under FAR 15.505 and 506.

Myth-Busters II has a section urging contractors to ask for debriefings:
Misconception #8 -- "If I lose the competition, I shouldn't bother to ask for a debriefing.  The contracting officer won't share any helpful information with me."  Fact -- Unsuccessful offerors should ask for a debriefing to understand the award decision and to improve future proposals.
While Myth-Busters II says Myth-Busters I "encouraged" debriefings, neither document discusses the nature, breadth and depth of the information provided.  FAR 15.506, for example, mandates a discussion of the "rationale for award" and requires "reasonable responses to relevant questions" about the source selection procedures followed.  It lists six categories of information which "at a minimum" shall be included in the debriefing.

We view the myth busting campaign a perfect opportunity for OFPP to promote best practices, in detail.  OFPP has not issued a Guide to Best Practices for Contract Administration document since 1994 -- until now.  Myth busting is a great vehicle to promote guidance to best practices.

Debriefings should at the very least contain a "rationale for award" and "reasonable responses to relevant questions" about the source selection decision.

Postscript:  We think written debriefings, although permitted, do not comply with the letter and spirit of FAR 15.506.  We see far too many written debriefings and the reason, we suspect, is not always that the contracting officer is too busy to comply with FAR 15.506.  This also is a reminder that the protester's lawyer can see the entire procurement file under a protective order in a GAO or court protest.


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