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If you don't agree with the decision of a contracting officer or government agency regarding a contract bid or awarded contract, regulations provide you with ways to make your voice heard – most commonly, with a bid or award protest.

To file a protest, you must be an "interested party."  This means that you must have direct economic interest in and would potentially be affected by the contract award or by the failure to award a contract. If your protest were sustained, you could be in line for an award.

Protesters can challenge anything from the acceptance or rejection of a contract bid to the award or proposed award of a contract to defective solicitations.

Some examples of bid defects are restrictive specifications, omission of required revisions, or ambiguous evaluation factors. You can even request a contract's termination if you allege that it was awarded based on improprieties.

Government contracting regulations require that you use your best efforts to resolve matters with a contracting agency before you file a protest. Open conversations are encouraged between you and the agency's contracting officers; this helps promote a fair and diligent resolution of matters.

If things can't be resolved through open conversation and you submit a bid protest or award protest to an agency, you can expect an informal and procedurally simple resolution to the protest that may involve another agency's personnel, third-party neutrals or alternative dispute techniques.

If the bid protest or award protest is received prior to the award of a contract, the contract typically will not be awarded pending the outcome of the protest.  There are some exceptions to this rule -- for example, if the government is in dire need of the products or services.  If the agency receives the protest 10 days after the award of the contract, the contract performance will be halted until the protest is resolved.

If you cannot resolve your protest with the contracting agency, you can file the protest with the U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO).