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Timely Protesting Non-Solicitations at GAO

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The Government Accountability Office’s (“GAO”) rules for timely protesting non-solicitations can be confusing. Offerors (or potential offerors) diligently monitoring need to focus on the substance of a non-solicitation posting and not simply the name or subject line an agency uses for the posting. Postings titled Notices of Intent, Sources Sought Notices, and Requests for Information (“RFI”) (collectively “pre-solicitation notices”) are common but the information therein can be different even for nearly identical titled postings. For example, one agency’s RFI might request that interested parties submit statements of interest or capabilities while another agency’s RFI has no such requirement. Companies need to carefully review these pre-solicitation notices to determine if they must protest the notice to be timely under GAO’s rules, or if they can wait and protest the terms of a subsequently issued solicitation.

The general rule is that GAO only has protest jurisdiction over actual solicitations—not pre-solicitation notices—since the pre-solicitation notice does not set forth the actual final requirements of an agency, but only a draft of the eventual requirements. Protests of such pre-solicitation documents that do not reflect the final actual requirements of the agency will be dismissed as premature, as they only anticipate improper agency action. See F-Star Zaragosa Port, LLC, B-417414.1, B-417414.2, Apr. 15, 2019, 2019 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 110 at *1; see also AeroSage, LLC, B-415893, B-415894, Apr. 17, 2018, 2018 Comp. Gen. ¶ 142 at 4-5 (explaining that “a sources sought notice is a request for information by the agency and not a solicitation that anticipates the award of a contract”); Onix Networking Corp., B-411841, Nov. 9, 2015, 2015 Comp. Gen. ¶ 330 at 5 (concluding that a request for information provided to prospective vendors is not a “solicitation that embodies [the agency’s] actual requirements”); Sigmatech, Inc., B-296401, Aug. 10, 2005, 2005 Comp. Gen. ¶ 156 at 4 (finding that a “sources sought notice is not a solicitation”).

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