How to lose a $100m bid – in 3 simple steps

Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

< 1 min read
Bid proposal - uphill battle

Lack of acronym definitions, unreadable language, and poor consistency will kill your pursuit

In November 2015, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest lodged by Federal Acquisition Services Alliant Joint Venture (FASA). The bid proposal was for information technology support for the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Information Technology Center (NITC). GAO estimated this task order to be worth $100m.

Not only did FASA get eliminated, but the General Services Agency (GSA) eliminated 16 of the 18 submissions as technically unacceptable. The FASA protest and the GAO determination gave us great insights into the reviewer’s mindset. For instance, the determination cited these specific issues;

“riddled with grammatical errors … lack of contractor vs. government identification; spelling errors; lack of acronym identification, consistency and accuracy; inconsistent reference and terminology; and punctuation errors.”

When you submit a bid proposal, your opportunity cost can be very large. So, losing on the grounds of a poor-quality proposal is painful since it is so preventable. Let’s consider some of the elements that contributed to this loss and how you can avoid them.

We use some sample copy below by way of explanation. Note these samples are not from the failed FASA submission.

Lack of Acronym Identification

Government agencies expect you to fully define every acronym in a consistent way. While it may be obvious to you, it is extremely dangerous to assume that your reviewer will understand acronyms with no definitions.

Here’s the type of copy we frequently see in proposals:

“Because IPTs are necessarily made up of peers from different organizational functions, both within AEES/EI and other components of FEMA shared accountability, and willingness to reach consensus, open-ended discussion and active problem solving involving the entire team is essential.”


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