Understanding the Timeline of Bid Protests at the GAO
by Heather Mims, Senior Associate Attorney
While there is no required form for the filing of a bid protest, navigating the timeline of the bid protest deadlines at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is less straightforward. Since a bid protest delays the procurement of goods and services, the GAO often strictly enforces these deadlines and may summarily dismiss a protest that is untimely. Our expert bid protest attorneys handle these complex matters regularly.
The deadline to file a bid protest will depend on the type of protest you are filing and there are generally two different types: (1) a so-called “pre-award protest,” challenging improprieties in a solicitation; or (2) allegation of any other procurement defect. Pre-award protests must generally be filed prior to the time set for submission of initial proposals while protests of the second category typically must be filed no later than ten days after the grounds for the protest are known or should have been known. You can typically think of the clock starting to run for this second category of protests on the date that an offeror suffers an adverse procurement decision; the two main ways that this comes up is either that an offeror was eliminated from the competition (either its proposal was found non-compliant or it was eliminated from the competitive range) or that award is made to another offeror.
An exception to this requirement occurs when offerors are entitled to a debriefing required by law. In those cases, when a debriefing is required and timely requested, the protester must file its initial protest not later than ten days after the date on which the debriefing was held.
Once a protest is timely filed, within thirty days of the agency receiving notice of the filed protest, the agency is required to file a written report in response to the protest, including all relevant evaluation documents. The protester (and any intervenors) will then file written comments on the agency’s report, which are due within ten days of the report being filed. Then, unless supplemental protest grounds are filed in response to the agency report or the GAO requires supplemental briefing on an issue, the GAO will issue a decision on a protest within 100 days of the filing date.
Of course, these are provided merely as general guidelines for understanding the timeliness requirements for filing a bid protest at the GAO. There are nuances and caveats to all of the above rules, including potential variations in deadlines to ensure an automatic stay of contract award or performance, so be sure to consult an attorney to confirm that these deadlines are being adhered to!