GAO Protests Report Summary

By: Christine V. Williams on 07/29/2015

This update summarizes the Congressional Research Service’s report, “GAO Protests: Trends and Analysis,” published on or around July 21, 2015. Please recall that although the SBA has a protest system in place for certain areas, if you are a small business contractor, the GAO decided at least 14 cases dealing with small business issues. These cases are ones, for the most part, that are in some way impactful and not the usual run-of-the-mill small business cases that end up in front of the GAO.

Number of Protests Filed

  • In FY 2014, GAO received 5% more protests than the year before and an increase of 125% since FY 2001.
  • The number of protests received in the last four years has been relatively constant.
  • Most protests are dismissed, withdrawn by the protester, or settled prior to the GAO issuing an opinion. In addition, the agency may voluntarily undertake corrective action to “fix” the allegation in the protest.

Government Spending and the Increase in Protests

  • FY 2008-FY 2014 Government spending dropped 25%, while protests increased 45%.
  • During this same time, the rate that the GAO sustained protests dropped from 22% to 17%.
  • According to one analysis, winning the protest is only the first step:
    (1) in FY 2010, out of approximately 1500 protests, GAO sustained 45 procurements;
    (2) out of those 45 procurements, in 8 instances the protesting party went on to win the contract (.5 percent); however,
    (3) this figure does not take into account corrective agency action, which puts the protestor as having a 12% chance of ultimately winning a contract award as a result of its protest.

Department of Defense (DOD) and Civilian Agencies

  • Protests against DOD are sustained at a lower rate (roughly half) than the rest of the government.
  • Protests against civilian agencies are growing at a faster rate than against DOD.
  • The protest rate for DOD for FY 2001-2014 increased by 170% compared to a 260% increase for civilian agencies.
  • In smaller increments, the protest rate for DOD for FY 2008-2014 increased by 85% compared to a 140% increase for civilian agencies.