Contractors are busy pursuing year-end business right now, but one thing they shouldn’t forget in their tool kit is the ability to protest.  Contractors should always ensure that their rights and ability to compete fairly are protected, no matter whether it’s August or April.  While frivolous protests may, indeed, harm a customer relationship, most federal officials know that contractors may protest if there’s a reason.  Feds often build time for protests into their acquisition cycle in anticipation of protests, especially on large projects.  Knowing what and when to protest, though, are always important.  Pre-award protests, made during the solicitation phase, are typically over ambiguous solicitation terms, especially those to which industry did not get satisfactory answers during any draft or discussion period.  Companies should never assume they know the answer to something that’s ambiguous.  Make sure you know on what you are bidding.  Post-award protests can be on a variety of grounds, but one major area is whether the government followed the evaluation terms they said they would use in making an award.  There have been some successful protests lately on this front where the government said it would award on best-value criteria, only to be taken in by the siren song of low price.  Regardless of the reason for a post-award protest, contractors must keep in mind that protestors get something they want over 40% of the time when protesting at GAO.  Most frequently that means that the government takes the procurement back, addresses identified deficiencies, and then re-competes the project.  Armed with better and clearer information all companies, not just the protestor, submit better offers. Most government contractors are more hesitant to protest than they should be.  You worked hard, though, and spent bid and proposal money, to pursue a piece of business.  An honest protest ensures that the acquisition is conducted fairly and that you get an even chance at winning.