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What is a Debriefing?

A Debriefing is your opportunity to understand the basis for the selection decision made by the agency.  During the debriefing you will have a chance to hear from the agency regarding:  evaluation process; how your proposal related to the evaluation criteria; deficiencies in your proposal; successful parts of your proposal; and reasonable responses to relevant questions about whether source selection procedures.

The Government offers Debriefings to businesses as a way to eliminate protests. Another reason for debriefings is to instill confidence in the Government selection process.  Lastly, the government provides debriefing as a way to help businesses understand the selection process and improve their bidding processes.

When is a Debriefing Required?

The Government will perform Debriefings for any negotiated contracts. They are also required for task or delivery orders exceeding $5.5 Million. (FAR 16.505(b)(6).  These briefings are not automatic!  You must request a debriefing within three calendar days after notification of exclusion from the competitive range or notification of contract award.  ALWAYS ASK FOR A DEBRIEFING!!!

The Agency will schedule your debriefing to be held within 5 days after the request.  However, the Debriefing may schedule outside this window.  The FAR does not require that debriefings occur within 5 days.  Please see FAR Part 15 for more information.

When is a Debriefing Not Required?

The government will not provide debriefings for the following procurements: commercial items; GSA Schedules; purchases under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT); and Sealed Bid Acquisitions.  Also, the government will not hold a  debriefing requested outside the allowable time period.  The Agency still may grant a request for a Debriefing  even though it was not timely requested where the award based on factors other than price alone, the Agency required to provide upon request a brief explanation of the basis for the award decision.  However,  the decision is up to the Agency for requests submitted outside the time frame.

Preparing for a Debriefing

You put a lot of time and money into your proposal.  Now you need to spend the time and prepare for the debriefing. The government is going to provide valuable insight on how they evaluated your proposal.  This is the time to learn the good, the bad and the ugly.  Follow these steps:

  1.  Review the applicable FAR clauses and bring with you to the meeting
  2.  Look over the RFP concentrating on the evaluation criteria.
  3.  Review the Notice of Award or notice of exclusion from competition.
  4.  Prepare your questions.
  5.  Have your team conduct a rehearsal before your meeting.

Sample Questions

Sometimes you need help when preparing for the Debriefing.  We have included 10 questions that you may want to ask during your debriefing to get your creative juices started.  Remember to be courteous and friendly.  

  1.  What could be have done better?
  2.  How was past performance evaluated?
  3.  What was our past performance rating?
  4.  Please describe the evaluation process used for this procurement?
  5.  Please identify our strengths, weaknesses and deficiencies in our proposal for each evaluation factor/subfactor?
  6.  Were we compliant with all technical  requirements?
  7.  Did we fail to address any solicitation requirements?  If so, What were they?
  8.   Did the Agency prepare an Independent Cost Estimate?
  9.   Were any areas of our proposal considered overpriced?
  10.   Did the Government evaluate risk?


As you can tell Debriefings are an essential part of the government contracting process.  There is much that a small business can gain from attending these briefings.  The better team and system you have in place the greater your chances are of winning contracts.  Always find the time to attend the debriefings.  Don’t assume that you know how the government evaluated your business. 

In order to stay competitive in today’s marketplace it is essential that small businesses continually evaluate their business and find ways to streamline their processes.  The more streamlined a process is the better your chances are to win government work.  It is essential that small businesses add debriefings as part of their business development strategy.

For more articles on government contracting please see our blog.  If you prefer to podcast then we hope you will consider subscribing to ours. 

FAR Part 15
FAR Part 16

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