Bid Protests at GAO: A Descriptive Guide

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Decision Timetable

Once the record is complete, GAO will consider the protest and decide the case through a written decision issued by the Comptroller General. At the latest, the decision will be issued 100 days after the protest is filed, unless GAO decides the case under the 65-day express option schedule. 4 C.F.R. § 21.9(a), (b). If a protester has filed a timely supplemental or a timely amended protest, GAO will endeavor to resolve the supplemental/amended protest within the 100-day time frame for a decision on the initial protest. 4 C.F.R. § 21.9(c). If that is not feasible, GAO may consider using the express option schedule or other accelerated schedule for the resolution of the supplemental/amended protest. Id.; 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(e). Parties may check the status of a protest on GAO’s Bid Protest Docket, found on GAO’s Internet web home page (


GAO may decide at the request of a party or on its own initiative that a protest can be resolved under an expedited schedule, referred to as the "express option." 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(a). A party requesting that GAO decide the case on this basis should submit a written request to that effect not later than 5 days after the protest is filed. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(c).

Under the express option schedule, the agency report is due within 20 days after the contracting agency receives notice from GAO that the express option will be used. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(d)(1). Comments on the report generally are due within 5 days after receipt of the report. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(d)(2). If a hearing is needed, comments on the hearing (and on the report if not already filed) must be filed within 5 days after the hearing ends, unless GAO sets a different date. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(d)(3). Under the express option schedule, GAO's decision will be issued not later than 65 days after the protest was filed. 4 C.F.R. §§ 21.9(b), 21.10(b). GAO may decide at any time that the express option schedule is no longer appropriate, and may set a different schedule for the protest, which will not exceed the time frame (100 days) for deciding a non-express option case.

Where a case is not appropriate for resolution under the express option, but there may be a justifiable basis for expediting the decision, the parties should discuss with the GAO attorney whether an expedited schedule is appropriate.


Notwithstanding any other provision in these regulations, at the request of a party or on its own initiative, GAO may use flexible alternative procedures, including, for example, establishing an accelerated schedule and/or issuing a summary decision, to resolve any protest. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(e). This provision is intended to provide a flexible, accelerated protest resolution procedure at GAO that will minimize disruptions to the procurement cycle. In addition, GAO may use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures at the request of one or more of the parties, or where GAO deems appropriate. This may take the form of negotiation assistance either before or after a protest is filed, or outcome prediction, where GAO will advise the parties of the likely outcome of the protest in order to allow the party likely to be unsuccessful to take appropriate action to resolve the protest without a written decision.

Practice Tip: ADR

A GAO attorney generally will not conduct ADR in the form of outcome prediction unless the parties indicate in advance a willingness, if identified as the likely unsuccessful party, to take appropriate action to resolve the protest--typically, corrective action by the agency, or withdrawal of the protest by the protester. The GAO attorney will discuss these and other matters with the parties in determining whether a case is appropriate for ADR.



To facilitate the expeditious development and resolution of a protest, GAO will conduct status and other types of informal conferences, by telephone or in person, with all parties participating in a protest. 4 C.F.R. § 21.10(f). Such conferences may be held at any time during the bid protest process and will be tailored to the circumstances of a particular case. For example, status and other types of informal conferences are beneficial for resolving protective order admission objections, document disputes, and summary dismissal requests; for discussing issues related to hearings; and for obtaining answers to questions that are relevant and material to the disposition of a protest.

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