Federal agencies don’t always want the top-of-the-line solution.  With budgets tight and funding uncertain, “state of the market” responses may drive more business than “state of the art”.  At least one GSA official confirmed this basic mind set at the Coalition for Government Procurement’s Fall Conference.  Federal agencies are trying to get fund multiple priority projects with limited funds.  As a result, more than one contractor rated “Outstanding” has lost business to companies ranked slightly lower in terms of technical proficiency, but that also priced their offers thousands of dollars lower.  If you’re not sure what your customer wants to see, communication in advance of the RFP or RFQ is key.  If you bid “bells and whistles”, lose, and then protest, it’s unclear what GAO will say.  Their rulings on price/technical trade-offs are highly variable.  Approach your government business strategy accordingly.  It may pay to remember the line “close enough for government work.”