Bid Protest Letter for government contractorsIf you’re trying to find out how to write a bid protest letter for an upcoming GAO protest, it can be a tricky experience. Failure to meet the legal requirements can cause your case to be dismissed. Although there is no specific protest letter format,  a government contract protest must be in writing, and a separate bid protest letter must be written for each challenged award unless all disputes are known at the same time. 

In addition to the basic GAO protest letter format requirements, GAO’s website explicitly states that the bid protest letter must include the following:

  • Include the name, address, and telephone and facsimile (fax) numbers of the protester (or its representative, if any);
  • Be signed by the protester or its representative;
  • Identify the contracting agency and the solicitation and contract number;
  • Set forth a detailed statement of the legal and factual grounds of protest, including copies of relevant documents;
  • Set forth all information establishing that the protester is an interested party for the purpose of the filing;
  • Set forth all information establishing the timeliness of the protest;
  • Specifically, request a ruling by the Comptroller General of the United States; and
  • State the form of relief requested. 4 CFR 21.1(c).

Protest Definition

A bid protest is defined as a supported challenge to the actual award or proposed award of a government contract for goods and services or a challenge to the stated solicitation terms for a federal contract. Under GAO regulations, the protest definition does not apply to procurement actions by non-federal government agencies, such as state, local, or foreign governments, or actions by certain exempted federal agencies, such as the Postal Service.

Under COFC and GAO protest regulations, you must also meet the legal definition of an interested party.

Other GAO Bid Protest Letter Format Requirements Under 4 CFR 21.1(c)

In addition to the above, the bid protest letter may include a request for a protective order, specific documents relevant to the action, and a hearing. There is no official response to bid protest letter.

If requesting specific documents, the protest must explain the relevance of requested documents to their protest grounds and the reason a hearing is necessary to resolve the protest. 4 CFR 21.1(c).

Under GAO bid protest regulations, your bid protest letter must be clearly labeled if it contains information which the protester believes is proprietary, confidential, or otherwise not releasable to the public.

In those cases, within one day after the filing of the unredacted letter with GAO, the protester must provide to GAO and the contracting agency a redacted version of the letter which omits such information. 4 CFR 21.1(g).

See also information about bid protest procedures and process and information about FAR Organizational Conflict of Interest allegations.


Your bid protest letter must be timely. GAO Bid Protest Regulations contain strict rules for the timely submission of protests. Masai Techs. Corp., B-400106, May 27, 2008, 2008 CPD ¶ 100 at 3.

You should be aware that a letter sent to the contracting officer expressing dissatisfaction with a procurement  or the ultimate award can be looked at as an agency protest.

When or not you intend the correspondence to be a bid protest letter is irrelevant.  In One case, GAO surprised the protestor when it filed a protest at GAO. Before that,  the contractor claimed that its correspondence was an effort to have the contracting officer reconsider his position.

GAO has long held that to be regarded as a protest, a written statement need not state explicitly that it is or is intended to be a protest, but must convey the intent to protest by a specific expression of dissatisfaction with the agency’s actions and a request for relief. Mackay Commc’ns–Request for Recon., B-238926.2, Apr. 25, 1990, 90-1 CPD ¶ 426 at 1; Masai Techs. Corp.

Surprisingly at the GAO level, the very agency used this argument against the contractor. GAO agreed the correspondence to the agency met the requirements of a bid protest letter. Therefore, the subsequent protest letter to GAO was untimely.  Find out whether you meet the legal definition of an interested party and avoid getting your case dismissed.

Non-Responsive Bid Protest Letters Not Meeting the Protest Definition

As the case for many other courts, if your bid protest letter is non-responsive, then it also fails to meet the protest definition and procedural requirements under 4 CFR 21. Either the contracting agency or the GAO  can initiate a dismissal request.

All bid protest requirements must be met. There are generally no exceptions if representing yourself pro se. See also SDVOSB certification and bid protests.

For help with how to write a bid protest letter or meeting the required letter format and requirements, please call Watson & Associates’ law firm at 1-866-601-5518. We offer a complimentary Free Initial Consultation.