Bid Protests Hit 10-Year Low


Companies filed 16% fewer bid protests in fiscal 2019 than the year prior.

Fiscal 2019 saw the fewest bid protests from industry in more than 10 years.

According to data released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office, vendors filed 2,198 protests in fiscal 2019, 16% fewer than were filed in the previous year. Fiscal 2019’s total represented 22% fewer protests than GAO’s 10-year high-water mark—the 2,789 filed in fiscal 2016.

According to GAO, the agency closed 2,200 cases in fiscal 2019 and sustained 77 of the 587 total decisions decided on merit. Fiscal 2019’s 13% sustain rate—wherein GAO agrees with the bid protestor—was its lowest since fiscal 2015. A large number of bid protests are resolved when agencies agree to take corrective action rather than GAO carrying the protest to full conclusion.

“Our review shows that the most prevalent reasons for sustaining protests during the 2019 fiscal year were: (1) unreasonable technical evaluation; (2) inadequate documentation of the record; (3) flawed selection decision; (4) unequal treatment; and (5) unreasonable cost or price evaluation,” said GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong.

While the decrease in bid protests coincides with a 35-day government shutdown during December 2018 and January 2019, data suggests the shutdown’s effects did not severely impact GAO’s operations. As an agency, GAO was not subject to the lapse in appropriations and remained open during the duration of the partial government shutdown. In addition, the agency served notice to shutdown-impacted agencies explaining “how the partial shutdown would affect bid protest activities and how we would proceed when the affected parts did not affect filing deadlines for protestors and private parties.” In total, GAO extended deadlines for eight bid protests of up to 35 days.

“Despite the length of the shutdown, and because GAO remained open during this period, we continued to decide all protests within 100 calendar days for the period that the relevant portion of the government was funded,” Armstrong said. 

Editor's note: This story was updated to correctly identify GAO's general counsel.