Congratulations! You won the contract! Win or lose, be sure to take part in the Post-Award Debrief.
We all know it’s important to follow-up after contract award and request a debrief so that we can learn about how our proposal stacked up against our competitors. Even if you’ve won the contract, a debrief makes sense, so you can learn what you did right and then apply that knowledge to the next contract competition. In order to gain the most from these debriefing opportunities, it’s also smart to review the FAR guidance that applies in FAR 15.506, Postaward Debriefing of Offerors, to fully comprehend what information the contracting officer can and cannot reveal. First, be aware that debriefings of successful and unsuccessful offerors may be done orally, in writing, or by any other method acceptable to the contracting officer. Secondly, be familiar with the FAR description of the minimum items to be included. They are:
(1) The Government’s evaluation of the significant weaknesses or deficiencies in the offeror’s proposal, if applicable;
(2) The 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 offeror;
(3) The overall ranking of all offerors, when any ranking was developed by the agency during the source selection;
(4) A summary of the rationale for award;
(5) For acquisitions of commercial items, the make and model of the item to be delivered by the successful offeror; and
(6) Reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures contained in the solicitation, applicable regulations, and other applicable authorities were followed.
Finally, it’s important to understand what the CO will not discuss. That would include:
point-by-point comparisons of the debriefed offeror’s proposal with those of other offerors. Moreover, the debriefing shall not reveal any information prohibited from disclosure by 24.202 or exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) including —
(1) Trade secrets;
(2) Privileged or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques;
(3) Commercial and financial information that is privileged or confidential, including cost breakdowns, profit, indirect cost rates, and similar information; and
(4) The names of individuals providing reference information about an offeror’s past performance.
A bit of preparation leading up to the debrief is time well spent. It’s prudent to jot down the pertinent questions and give some thought to the sequencing of questions. Be persistent in your questioning and you may learn more useful information that can be applied to the next competition.