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Debriefings for government contracts

Debriefings Deconstructed

The link to this article can be found at:

https://www.gsa.gov/policy-regulations/policy/acquisition-policy/debriefings-deconstructed

Debriefings provide many benefits to contractors who compete for a Government contract. Debriefings give unsuccessful offerors insight into the contracting officer’s decision making and evaluation process, and help contractors better compete in future solicitations. Additionally, a properly conducted debriefing can clear up an offeror's misunderstandings and greatly minimize the risk of protests being filed.

There are two types of debriefings, preaward and postaward, governed by Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 15.505 and 15.506, respectively.

A contractor can request a preaward debriefingif the contracting officer excluded the contractor before awarding the contract to any other offeror. Click here for information on how to conduct a preaward debriefing.

A contractor may request a postaward debriefingwhen the contracting officer decides to which offeror to award the contract. Click here for information on how to conduct a postaward debriefing.

Preaward debriefing

Offerors who are excluded from competing for an award before an award is made, may request a debriefing by submitting the request to the contracting officer:

  1. In writing, AND
  2. Within three days of the contractor being notified that they are excluded from competing for the award.

If the offeror follows these two requirements, the contracting officer should make every effort have the debriefing as soon as possible. However, the contracting officer may decide to delay the debriefing if he or she thinks it is in the Government’s best interest. The reason for delaying the debriefing must be documented in the requesting offeror’s contract file. The offeror can also request that the preaward debriefing be delayed until after the contracting officer awards the contract. However, the offeror should be cautious of making this request because it may affect the timeliness of filing a protest.

Even if an excluded offeror misses the three-day window to submit a preaward debriefing request, the contracting officer may still grant a debriefing. However, the decision to grant preaward debriefings for late requests is up to the individual contracting officer. Consequently, the contracting officer may deny a preaward debriefing request if the offeror fails to submit a timely debriefing request.

It is also up to the contracting officer to decide how the debriefing will take place. Debriefings may be done orally, in writing, or by any other method that the contracting officer thinks is acceptable. Whatever method the contracting officer chooses, the debriefing must include all of the following:

  1. The agency’s evaluation of the significant elements of the offeror’s proposal
  2. A summary of the contracting officer’s reasoning for eliminating the offeror from competing for the award
  3. Answers to the offeror’s questions about whether the contracting officer followed the procedures in the solicitation, the applicable regulations, and any other authorities when the contracting officer decided to eliminate the offeror from the competition.

In a preaward debriefing, the contracting officer cannot disclose any of the following:

  1. How many offerors are competing for the award
  2. The names of the other offerors
  3. The content of the other offerors’ proposals
  4. The ranking of other offerors
  5. How the contracting officer evaluated the other offerors

Postaward debriefing

Offerors may request a postaward debriefing after the contracting officer has awarded a contract to another offeror. Postaward debriefing requests must be:

  1. Submitted to the contracting officer in writing, AND
  2. Within three days of the requesting offeror receiving notification of the contract award.

The contracting officer should hold the debriefing within five days of receiving the offeror’s written request for a debriefing. If the requesting offeror does not meet the three-day deadline for filing a request, a contracting officer may still hold a postaward debriefing. However, the decision to hold a postaward debriefing for late debriefing requests is left to the contracting officer’s discretion. If the contracting officer decides to accommodate a late request, the debriefing does not automatically extend the deadlines for filing a protest.

It is up to the contracting officer to decide how the debriefing will take place. It can be done orally, in writing, or by any other method that the contracting officer thinks is acceptable. Whatever method the contracting officer chooses, the debriefing must include all of the following:

  1. The Government’s evaluation of the weaknesses or deficiencies of the debriefed offeror’s proposal
  2. The cost or price and technical rating of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror
  3. Past performance information of the debriefed offeror
  4. The rankings of all offerors
  5. A summary of the contracting officer’s rationale for making the award to the winning offeror
  6. For commercial item awards, the make and model of the successful offeror’s item
  7. Answers to the debriefed offeror’s questions about whether the contracting officer followed the procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities.

The debriefing may not, however, include a point-by-point comparison of the debriefed offeror and other offerors. Additionally, the debriefing may not include any information regarding things such as trade secrets or confidential manufacturing techniques.