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WIFCON front page currently has a link to Court of Federal Claims case No. 10-481c, Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc. v. U. S., and Portage, Inc., August 16, 2010. (August 23, 2010)

http://www.wifcon.com/pdcg21_0a.htm#court

"In the present action, Navarro is not challenging the procurement decision itself but rather seeks to enforce a post-award procedural remedy?an allegedly mandatory debriefing. In other words, even if Navarro were to prevail here, it would not be awarded the contract. It would still have to obtain review of the merits of the award and succeed. Thus, the government argues, Navarro has no direct economic interest, is not an interested party, and therefore lacks standing. Although the precise question presented is one of first impression, we believe that the relevant statutes and related case law mean that the government is incorrect."

The case is ostensibly about STANDING. The Court created a nuanced expansion of standing, based on a plaintiff's challenge to the integrity of the entire procurement process, rather than strictly limiting standing to a party that demonstrates a direct economic interest.

In this way, the Court says that the plaintiff is entitled to a debriefing, and the Court will require the Government to give them one.

Are the facts here so unique that only Navarro can get the Court to order a debriefing, and only in this one set of circumstances, or does this create for disappointed bidders a new right to a Debriefing ?

This would take away from creative CO's the one surest way of avoiding protests, which is simply by refusing to say what the Government did, and raise the level of accountability by orders of magnitude.

Within the last month or so, I commented here at WIFCON that expanding bid protest authority of the Comp Gen to include requiring CO's to give mandatory debriefings would have a significant effect on corruption in federal contracting. I was dreaming of a legislative remedy, but I'll take what I can get. Am I reading too much into this ?

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Guest Vern Edwards

In my opinion, someone at DOE should be taken to task for refusing to give a debriefing, legally required or not, and for using taxpayer money to litigate the issue. Any competent contracting officer could have given a good debriefing in an hour's worth of time and without provoking a protest. If the debriefing revealed a flaw in the agency's conduct of the procurement, then a competent CO with integrity would have taken corrective action. So they didn't give a debriefing in order to avoid a protest, and got a protest anyway. Brilliant.

What we have here is a lot of time and money being spent in an effort to avoid doing something simple and inexpensive. Sometimes, government managers act so stupidly that it makes me feel hopeless about the very idea of government. Had I been that CO's boss I would have made him or her give a decent debriefing rather than go to court. And this was just the first step. Now that the court has granted the protester standing, the parties may have to litigate the debriefing issue. Hopefully, some grownup in DOE will kick somebody in the tail and put this thing to bed without spending more money.

Don't tell me how overworked COs are. They are their own worst enemies. I'd like to find that CO, rip the warrant off his or her cubicle wall, burn it in the parking lot, and then set fire to the cubicle.

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Am I reading the decision wrong (or too fast and missing something)? As I read the decision, the Court found that the Government was wrong to request the suit be dismissed because Navarro had no standing. I didn't see anywhere that the Court addressed the matter of whether DOE would be required to give a debriefing - just that the Government's argument for dismissal was faulty as was Navarro's argument that the procurement should have been covered by FAR 15 or 16 procedures.

Totally agree with Vern though. Even if you just provide them a written debriefing so they know why they lost, you might avoid a lot of hassle.

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As someone who has recent DOE experience, this was not a surprising outcome at all. There is a culture at many DOE field offices whereby procurement processes are driven not by trying to conduct good business, but by overly-literal reading of applicable rules and regulations. I could only venture what happened here is that the CO's procurement attorney advised them that no debrief was required and the CO did not grow a pair and go off and do what made sense...

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Guest Vern Edwards
Am I reading the decision wrong (or too fast and missing something)? As I read the decision, the Court found that the Government was wrong to request the suit be dismissed because Navarro had no standing. I didn't see anywhere that the Court addressed the matter of whether DOE would be required to give a debriefing - just that the Government's argument for dismissal was faulty as was Navarro's argument that the procurement should have been covered by FAR 15 or 16 procedures.

Totally agree with Vern though. Even if you just provide them a written debriefing so they know why they lost, you might avoid a lot of hassle.

You read the decision correctly. The judge denied the government's motion to dismiss and held that the company had standing to protest. The next step is to litigate the debriefing issue if the protester still wants to and the parties cannot settle out of court. However, the judge has basically told the protester that it is likely to lose on that issue.

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