Protests are a part of a federal contractor’s life.  That nice award you just got?  Protested.  Feel rejected?  Protest!  Here are three things to remember about protests that are essential to sustained business success:  1. GAO Protests Don’t Always Stop and Award:  While a protest to GAO may stop an acquisition in its tracks, it doesn’t always.  First, if you’re hoping to stop work on a project it’s best to protest earlier in the 10 day window than at the end.  Second, GAO opinions are, technically, advisory.  An executive branch agency doesn’t have to follow the GAO’s ruling.  2.  “No Protest” Policies Work Against You:  Generally, government contractors are more reluctant to protest than they should be.  The concern is harming the customer relationship.  Balderdash.  Unless your protest is totally off the wall or you crank out a protest 365 days a year, chances are your customer agency is expecting a protest on every high stakes acquisition.  They even build protests into their acquisition planning.  Worse, if you’re a known “no protest” company, that late night bid you submitted on September 30th may never get read.  You’re better off adopting a reasonable, protective, protest policy.  3.  Know When and Where to Protest:  Is the wording in the RFP or RFQ vague?  No one’s answering your e-mails for clarification?  Protest now, before bids are due.  Guessing what your customer wants = guessing you’re going to lose.  Post-award protests on RFP/Q wording are not timely.  Post-award, you have 10 days from the time you knew, or should have known, about a protest-able issue to file at GAO.  Also, if you want a de-brief on Thursday, but the CO offers one the Monday before, the 10 day clock starts ticking on Monday.  Remember, too, that the Court of Federal Claims can be a viable protest venue.  Protests are a tool to be used wisely.  While you may use this tool infrequently, it helps to be proficient anyway.