For the first time in several years, the version of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that just passed the Senate does not contain any major reforms to limit bid protests.  But the bill the Senate sent to the conference committee process does contain two provisions aimed at bid protests.  Although they are minor, they portend and may lay the groundwork for future attempts to change the protest process.  Both provisions call for further study of issues addressed in the RAND Corporation’s January 2018 bid protest report.
Continue Reading Senate Largely Leaves Bid Protests Alone in Passed Version of FY 2019 NDAA After Threatening Major Revisions

Timothy M. Persons, GAO Chief Scientist Applied Research and Methods, recently provided testimony on artificial intelligence (“AI”) before the House of Representatives’ Subcommittees on Research and Technology and Energy, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.  Specifically, his testimony summarized a prior GAO technological assessment on AI from March 2018.  Persons’ statement addressed three areas:  (1) AI has evolved over time; (2) the opportunities and future promise of AI, as well as its principal challenges and risks; and (3) the policy implications and research priorities resulting from advances in AI.  This statement by a GAO official is instructive for how the government is thinking about the future of AI, and how government contractors can, too.

The Evolution and Characteristics of AI

Persons stated that AI can be defined as either “narrow,” meaning “applications that provide domain-specific expertise or task completion,” or “general,” meaning an “application that exhibits intelligence comparable to a human, or beyond.”  Although AI has evolved since the 1950s, Persons cited today’s “increased data availability, storage, and processing power” as explanations for why AI occupies such a central role in today’s discourse.  And while we see many instances of narrow AI, general AI is still in its formative stages.

Continue Reading Covington Artificial Intelligence Update: GAO Testimony Before Congress Regarding Emerging Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications for Policy and Research with Artificial Intelligence

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) sustained a bid protest challenging the agency’s decision to exclude the protester from consideration based on a potential organizational conflict of interest (“OCI”).  The GAO decision serves as a reminder that an offeror that is excluded from a competition on the basis of a perceived OCI can challenge that decision in a protest before GAO.  And although GAO will give the agency a fair amount of deference, it will nonetheless sustain a protest where it concludes that the agency’s decision was unreasonable.

Continue Reading In Archimedes Bid Protest, Government Contractor Takes on Herculean Task of Challenging the Agency’s OCI Determination, and Wins

On April 2, 2018, GAO issued a final rule revising its existing regulations to implement a number of changes to its bid protest process.  The new rule becomes effective on May 1, 2018.

Several of these changes implement requirements in Section 1501 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2014 (“Act”), which directed GAO to institute an electronic filing system and authorized GAO to charge a filing fee to cover the cost of that electronic filing system.  But the revisions are not limited to those two issues.

Here are the highlights:

Continue Reading GAO Debuts New Protest Procedures Effective May 1, 2018

Last week, the RAND Corporation published a report entitled “Assessing Bid Protests of U.S. Department of Defense Procurements: Identifying Issues, Trends, And Drivers.”  In it, RAND analyzed the prevalence and impact of bid protests of U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) acquisitions, and concluded that DoD bid protests are both “exceedingly uncommon” and, on the whole, effective in prompting DoD to take remedial actions to address issues identified in the protests.  The report, which was commissioned by Congress in Section 885 of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) Pub. L. No. 114-238, is expected to be a driver of changes to the protest process, and includes several recommendations counseling against significant changes that appear to be favorable to protesters.
Continue Reading RAND Report Concludes That Protests of Department of Defense Procurements Are Rare, Effective

On Monday, GAO issued its Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2017.  Most notably, the effectiveness rate hit 47%.  The effectiveness rate looks at all cases filed, and measures the percentage of cases in which a protester obtains some relief, whether through a sustain by GAO or voluntary corrective action by the agency.

That’s right:  Protesters obtained relief in almost half of all protests last year.  And this year’s 47% effectiveness rate is a new all-time high — continuing a steady upward march over the past several years.  When GAO began measuring the sustain rate in 2001, it was just 33%.  By 2008, it had risen to 42%.  It then held pretty steady through 2012, but has been rising since:

Continue Reading GAO’s Annual Report: Protests Are Down, But Their Effectiveness Is Up

Earlier this month the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report titled “Department of Energy: Use of Leading Practices Could Help Manage the Risk of Fraud and Other Improper Payments” (GAO-17-235) (the “Report”).  As the title suggests, GAO assessed the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) internal controls to manage “the risk of fraud and improper payments.”  GAO found that DOE had not employed certain “leading practices” to combat fraud – like creating a “dedicated entity to lead fraud risk management activities” and using “specific control activities, such as data analytics” – and offered six recommendations for improvement.  Although DOE disagreed with certain findings in the Report, the agency represented that it either already has implemented or is implementing the majority of GAO’s recommendations.  Here is our assessment of the Report.

Continue Reading GAO Recommends Improvements to DOE’s Fraud Controls; DOE Fires Back

In mid-December, GAO issued its Bid Protest Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2016.  The report reveals, among other things, that GAO’s protest sustain rate for this past fiscal year (“FY”) was 22.56%, almost double that of FY 2015.  While this is perhaps the most notable data point, the report once again provides a wealth of interesting information for the contractor community.

The Competition in Contracting Act requires that GAO report to Congress certain data concerning GAO’s handling of bid protests, including the number of protest filings and a summary of the most relevant grounds for sustaining protests.[1]  Unpacking this data provides helpful insight to contractors considering whether or not to challenge a procurement award via a bid protest at GAO.  The report includes a chart comparing the statistics over the last five fiscal years; below we summarize some of the highlights for FY 2016:
Continue Reading Double Your Pleasure: GAO’s Annual Protest Report Shows that Sustain Rate Has Almost Doubled, But the Effectiveness Rate Remained Flat

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently denied a protest challenging as unduly restrictive an express prohibition on the use of consultants to develop a proposed technical approach. The GAO concluded that such a prohibition is similar to an agency’s decision when evaluating proposals to only consider the experience and past performance of an offeror. This conclusion, if relied upon in future solicitations, could have a significant impact on both large and small contractors that rely on third parties when drafting proposals.

The solicitation at issue contemplated the award of multiple indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts for the provision of “total” information technology service solutions to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The solicitation instructed offerors to describe a proposed technical approach for “sample tasks” identified in the solicitation as a means to “test” offerors’ “expertise and innovative capabilities” to respond to circumstances that could arise during contract performance. Offerors were prohibited from using consultants to develop their proposed technical approach for sample tasks. Although an offeror could rely on consultants when drafting other components of its proposal, the offeror’s proposed technical approach for sample tasks had to be the “work of the Offeror” and any subcontractor with which the offeror had a formal teaming arrangement.

Continue Reading GAO Upholds Restriction on Using Consultants to Develop a Proposed Technical Approach