According to the Federal Acquisitions Regulation (FAR) 8.4, unsuccessful bidders are entitled to either a brief explanation of why they were not chosen or a debriefing.

Brief Explanations vs. Debriefings

What are the differences?  For starters, the time frame for making a request.  One may request a brief explanation up to 10 days after notice or award, but a debriefing must be requested in writing within 3 days of award (or the offeror is notified as being eliminated from the competition).  The agency should schedule the debriefing 5 days of receiving the request. If you want a debriefing, act fast.  Debriefing information may be found in FAR 15.5.

But the chief differentiators between the two are the content and level of detail. A brief explanation is just that—brief.  A brief explanation is provided only in proposals for services that require a Statement of Work (SOW). The contents consist only of identifying the evaluation factors (which were likely identified in the RFP, the rating or ranking that the offeror was scored on the individual evaluation factors (i.e. past performance, technical approach, management plan, and price), and identifying weaknesses in the submission that led to a lower score.

As stated above, you cannot waste time in asking for a debriefing.  There are debriefings before or after the final contract award.  If an offeror has been notified that their submission has been eliminated (usually as excluded from the competitive range for award) before an award is made—there would be a preaward debriefing.  In either case, the Government may refuse to provide a debriefing if doing so is deemed to be in the Government’s interest.  Debriefings may be done in writing or orally.  Below is a comparison of preaward and postaward debriefings.

Comparison of Preaward and Postaward Debriefings

The agency’s evaluation of significant elements in the offeror’s proposal



Summary of the rationale for excluding the offeror’s proposal from further considerationProvide rationale for nonselection of the offeror’s proposal.
Reasonable Responses to relevant questions regarding the solicitation, applicable regulationsSame

Cannot include

  • The number of other offerors
  • The ranking of other proposals
  • The identity of other offerors

Can include

  • the number of other proposals, the  ranking of other proposals, the winning price.
  • Cannot include a point-by-point comparison of the offeror’s proposal with the winning or other proposal submitted
  • Cannot include trade secrets, proprietary information, or the names/identities of evaluators.

Coley has decades of experience assisting our clients with questions regarding debriefings.  We have assisted many clients in preparing for debriefings and have sometimes been asked to sit in on the meeting.  If you have further questions about the debriefing process, please contact  Coley at 210-402-6766 or at

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