GAO: Protests Not a Problem


A lot has been made about the 17 percent up-tick in protests handled by the Government Accountability Office last year, but today GAO released a long-awaited trend report that shows, historically speaking, protest levels are relatively low.

GAO first got the protest authorities we know today in 1984. Since then the number of protests it handles have dropped significantly from 2,240 in 1989 to 1,027 last year. But protests have been inching up since 2001, mirroring the rise in procurement spending, according to the report.

Last year’s rise is primarily due to GAO’s expanded authority to handle protests of task orders worth more than $10 million and protests of competitive sourcing decisions, according to the report.

GAO said that these additional protests haven’t meant delays if they’re without merit. That’s because GAO closes nearly 50 percent of Defense-related protests within 30 days. In addition, while a procurement is under protest, Defense and other agencies can move forward with the buy if the good or service is urgently needed or in the best interests of the country.

Why all the misconceptions about bid protests being out of control? Simple, GAO says:

Last year, a single protested procurement–the Boeing Company’s challenge of the award of a contract by the Air Force to Northrop Grumman for a new fleet of tanker planes–generated unprecedented interest in, and questions about, GAO’s role in deciding these disputes. While we welcome this interest, many of the questions we received, as well as the media accounts of the dispute, reflected a limited understanding of the protest process.


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