What you can expect from a government debriefing
How to get a debriefing
Per Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15.506, if the offeror requests a debrief in writing within 3 days of notification of a contract award, then, in accordance with FAR Part 15.503, the agency must furnish a basis for the selection decision and contract award. However, Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQs), Government Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), and Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) use FAR Part 8 to guide their debriefing process.
When does the debriefing occur?
Per Part 15.506, the debriefing should occur within 5 days of receiving the written request unless there are compelling reasons for a delay. If the offeror does not submit a timely request, the company is not entitled to a debriefing. The offeror can expect the debrief to occur orally, in writing, or by any other method acceptable to the contracting officer (CO). The CO is usually the chair of the debriefing session. Individuals who conducted the proposal evaluations support the CO in assembling the debriefing.
What information must the debriefing cover?
At a minimum, the government provides the following debriefing information:
- Evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable.
- Overall evaluated cost or price (including unit prices) and technical rating, if applicable, of the successful offeror and the debriefed offeror and past performance information on the debriefed
- Overall ranking of all
- Summary of the rationale for the award.
- The make and model of the product to be delivered by the successful offeror for acquisitions of commercial products.
- Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.
What the debriefing does not cover
The government will not discuss point-by-point comparisons of the debriefed offeror’s proposal with those of other offerors. The debriefing does not reveal any information prohibited from disclosure by government regulations. It also does not include information that is exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 5 U.S.C.552, including:
- Trade secrets.
- Privileged or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques.
- Commercial and financial information that is privileged or confidential, including cost breakdowns, profit, indirect cost rates, and similar information.
- The names of individuals providing reference information about an offeror’s past performance.
In addition, your debriefing becomes part of the contract file.
What is the difference in the debrief when the RFP uses FAR Part 15.508 and Part 8?
If a contract is operated in compliance with FAR Part 8, the debriefing rules are different. Large acquisitions associated with GWACs, IDIQs, or BPAs commonly operate in compliance with FAR Part 8 and not FAR Part 15.506. Since the GWAC, IDIQ, or BPA is used by an agency other than the customer, this adds a layer of complexity. While there is no required debriefing, as in FAR Part 15.506, FAR 8.405-2(d) provides: “If an unsuccessful offeror requests information on an award that was based on factors other than price alone, a brief explanation of the basis for the award decision shall be provided.” The term “brief explanation” is vague and dependent upon the CO. It never hurts to ask the CO for a debrief similar in format to the one provided by FAR Part 15.506, but it is up to the CO.
Always request a debrief if you win or lose. Debriefs contain invaluable information about how the customer views your approach, past performance, personnel, and pricing compared to competitors. You can use this information to support your recompete or other bids with the customer. Additionally, be sure to share the debrief information and lessons learned with your corporate team to determine how to improve your win rate.
By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow
Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals. As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
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contributors Brenda Crist, Bob Lohfeld, Wendy Frieman, Alexandra Wingate, Julia Quigley, Maryann Lesnick
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