GAO decision highlights protest timeliness for postponed pre-award debriefings (competitive range exclusion).
GAO's timeliness rules are strictly construed and provide that a protest following a "required" post-award debrief is timely if it's filed not later than 10 days after the debriefing. 4 CFR § 21.2(a)(2). Where an offeror is excluded from competitive range, a pre-award debriefing that is postponed until after award is "required" only when the "[excluded] offeror requested and was refused a pre-award debriefing.” 41 USC § 3705(c). Where the contractor elects to postpone, however, the debrief after the award is not "required."
Here, the protester initially requested a pre-award debriefing. But, in response to an agency inquiry, the protester then decided to postpone. As a result, the debrief after the award was not "required." Ultimately, GAO dismissed the protest as untimely because the protester would have learned the basis of its protest had it requested a pre-award debrief (failure to diligently pursue).
Takeaway: If you are excluded from competitive range, request a pre-award debriefing and take the first date offered. Do not postpone. If you do, you may lose the ability to protest.