Sorry, the portal is closed

Anyone who's ever dealt with government contracts knows that the most stressful part of a proposal is the submission process. There's a palpable fear that you'll send the wrong version of some important document that had been edited a million times over. Or that you'll accidentally send the proposal to the wrong person. It's super stressful!

And for good reason. In fact, my very first newsletter post was on the very topic of missed connections: a government contractor sent a proposal through a portal and the portal gave the wrong email address and, therefore, the proposal was never reviewed. Super. Tragic.

As a fun anthropological experiment, try asking a proposal manager (especially a grants proposal manager!) about their favorite submission proposal portal experience. Grab a beer and hold on tight, because you'll sure hear some horror stories.

Usually those horror stories are things like "you have to manually copy and paste from your spreadsheet into the portal's form and then you have to individually validate the field and it takes forever and it never saves, so if you screw something up later, you have to start over from the beginning." Terrifying, really.

So, proposal submission is stressful. And portals add to the stress.

One portal that is used by a relatively small subset of the #govcon ecosystem is the Electronic Protest Docketing System ("EPDS" for short). EPDS is where (primarily) lawyers file bid protests with the GAO.

Now, I've never personally used the portal before, so I can't speak to the usability. Fortunately, there is a video that shows what the process is like and it seems... fine, I guess?

But, just like other submission portals in government contracting, I suspect it can be stressful to file bid protests in EPDS and make sure you meet the 10-day filing deadline!

Here's a case from a few weeks ago that is a good reminder that lawyers are people, too, and that attorneys can get tripped up by submission portals. In the case, the protestor's counsel had a deadline of 5:30 on May 22nd and, well: she missed it!

We asked the protester to explain why its comments were not filed in EPDS by 5:30 p.m. on May 22, and also requested any supporting documentation available. In response, protester’s counsel explains that she attempted to access EPDS at 5:20 p.m. on May 22. Counsel states that after entering the appropriate username and password, the dashboard interface appeared to be loading for an extended period of time. Counsel explains that “because the time to upload the filing before 5:30 p.m. was short,” she emailed Optimo’s comments to

Oh, god. I know that feeling. You try and log in. It's taking forever. C'mon c'mon, you mutter. You stare at the clock, stare at the browser puttering along, get nervous, and make a snap decision to try a backup plan. After you dash off the email, you get back to the portal and finish up... in this case, at 5:40 pm.

Now, you might be wondering... why 5:30 pm? It's a good question! It's because the regulations clearly state: "A document is filed on a particular day when it is received in EPDS by 5:30 p.m., Eastern Time. Delivery of a protest or other document by means other than those set forth in the online EPDS instructions does not constitute a filing."[1]

You can see where this is going...

Since EPDS was operating normally on May 22, the alternative option to file comments via email was not available. Therefore the May 22 email sent to does not constitute a filing.

And ...

Here, the deadline to file comments was 5:30 p.m. on May 22. The protester filed its comments at 5:40 p.m. on May 22. Thus, the protester did not file its comments by the deadline.

Oh no! Missed the deadline by 10 minutes? Case dismissed! Them's the breaks!

Perhaps there's still hope, though? In a funny twist, the protest in question was related to "the award of multiple indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity governmentwide acquisition contracts for information technology (IT) services, known as Chief Information Officer-Solutions and Partners (CIO-SP4)."

That's right, friends... the protest here involved CIO-SP4! And, as luck would have it, I think I know what I'll be writing about pretty soon![2] Perhaps the protestor will have another bite at the apple here? Whatever the outcome, my guess is that she'll be filing much earlier from now on!

[1] At first I speculated that maybe the 5:30 rule was some quirk of help-desk support, some misunderstanding of how the internet works, or some random internal report that is customarily generated at 5:32 pm or whatever. As it turns out, though, the 5:30 rule is an artifact of the pre-electronic filing times, when the physical GAO office would shut down. If it ain't broke, right?

[2] If you're not going to click through and you're confused, CIO-SP4 was colossally protested and GAO sustained 98 protests of CIO-SP4. Who the hell knows what happens next?!

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