The Power of a Debrief in Federal Contracting

Nov 23, 2022 7:22:00 AM / by Susan Spenader

The Importance of a debrief

Contracting is a complicated process. It takes time, effort, and resources to get it right. But one of the best ways to make sure you have all the information you need is by participating in post-award debriefings in federal contracting.

What is a Debrief?

Under FAR 15, a debrief is a formalized process where you get to discuss the contract award process with the contracting officer. It's essentially an opportunity for you to ask questions about why you were not selected for an award, as well as any other information that may help you improve your chances of winning future contracts.

The type of information that should be addressed during this phase includes all proposed terms and conditions of performance and whether they meet industry standards (both technical specifications), as well as any special requirements unique to this specific project/task order (such as mission-critical equipment).

The Solicitation

Offerors or bidders on government contracts can get information through the solicitation documents released by agencies. 

The solicitations are released in a document that usually includes a synopsis of proposed contract actions, prequalification requirements, instructions for submitting proposals, and other important details. 

The solicitation documents provide an overview of the scope of work being awarded under a specific contract and its location. It also provides information regarding which methods of proposal submission are acceptable for your company to use when submitting its proposal for consideration by an agency.

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Benefits of a Debrief

A debrief is an opportunity for both sides to learn from the process. It’s a chance for the contractor to learn about their submission’s strengths and weaknesses and why they didn't get the contract. For example, maybe one bidder's costs were too high, or another bid was more innovative in its approach. This type of learning has many advantages, including:

  • Offerors may learn about their competitors. This can be beneficial in several ways: it can help you better understand your own offeror’s performance, give insight into what your competition did well or poorly during the submission process, and allow you to see if there are areas where all offerors performed poorly.
  • If there are common themes among all or most submissions (e.g., questions were not answered correctly), the debrief will provide insight into how to tailor future submissions in order to increase the chances of success.
  • Offerors may get insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the agency’s evaluation process (e.g., “were we too critical? Did we over-objectify? Are there other ways we can improve our processes?”).

The debrief also allows federal agencies to access feedback from industry professionals who may have valuable insights into how they can improve future contracting processes.

You can also use debriefs to gain insight into whether an agency intends to recompete certain work and if so, when that work may be up for bid again. 

If a program office has decided not to continue working with a particular contractor or it believes the contractor's performance is below par, it would not likely award a follow-on contract based on what happened with the initial one. 

Additionally, if an agency decides not to pursue a procurement action because there are other ways of obtaining similar products and services (e.g., through GSA schedules), then you may want further review by someone within that organization before submitting another proposal for consideration under their process.

The Importance

You are simply entitled to know why you did not get the contract.

It is important for all parties involved to understand what happened during federal procurements and acquisitions so that they can learn from past mistakes, make improvements, and become better at their jobs. 

By taking advantage of debriefs, contractors will be able to see where they went wrong and how they can improve upon their competitors’ practices when bidding on future contracts. 

Additionally, agencies benefit because it allows them to better understand their own processes and procedures in order to improve their processes overall while also improving customer satisfaction with their agency.

Conclusion

We hope that this article has helped you understand the benefits of debriefs in federal contracting. 

We know that they can be a valuable tool for both contractors and contracting officers alike, by providing information about how an agency intends to use your proposal or bid package as well as insight into their decision-making process. 

If you want more information on how debriefs can help in your next government contract bid, contact us today at (866) 216-5343

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Tags: Guides

Susan Spenader

Written by Susan Spenader

Susan is USFCR's Marketing Generalist. Her goal is to help businesses understand the ins and outs of the federal marketplace and to connect businesses with the resources they need to succeed.