Should Vendors Submit Contract Bids During a Government Shutdown?

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Deadlines are deadlines, even if no one is there to check.

Federal contractors large and small should be prepared for a long government shutdown. But what about the contracting opportunities currently in play?

Unless an agency contracting office has given specific instructions, federal procurement experts say vendors should submit questions and bids according to previously posted deadlines, even if the contracting officers aren’t there to receive them.

“These are among the thousand day-to-day issues that arise during an actual lapse in funding. The general guidance I provide our members is: Until told otherwise, the deadline is the deadline, even if the government offices are closed,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and general counsel for the Professional Services Council.

Electronic submissions—through email or a web portal—should be timestamped by the system and stored until federal employees return to work.

When it comes to in-person submissions, Chvotkin suggested doing that documentation work yourself.

“Because the procurement rules are strict about where, when and to whom proposal delivery must be made, proposals should never to left with a security guard or even another agency employee, even if they would ‘accept it,’” he said. “Best to attempt delivery and document—with photos and time stamps—the effort and confirm the attempt with an electronic message to the designated official.”

That said, most agencies release information about pending bids as part of their “orderly shutdown” procedures, he added.

When it comes to deadlines for submitting questions, the same applies, said Jennifer Schaus, founder and principal of J. Schaus and Associates.

“Even if your customer is not working, you should,” she told Nextgov. “This along with submitting a proposal ‘on-time’ during a shutdown may give you a competitive advantage in a very tight field of qualified vendors. These dates may eventually get pushed out, but the customer will know that you were on time. … This gives the risk-averse government confidence that you follow directions and are ‘there’ even when they are not.”

Chvotkin noted this advice goes for submitting protests to the Government Accountability Office, as well, though the agency is funded through the legislative branch—which received annual appropriations in September—and is fully open through the shutdown.

When GAO has shut down in the past due to a lapse in appropriations, the agency has “granted a day-to-day extension on the protest clock,” he said.

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