Competition In Contracting Act (CICA)

What Is the Competition In Contracting Act?

Competition In Contracting Act is a policy established by Congress in 1984 to encourage competition for government contracts. The idea behind the policy is that the increased competition will result in improved savings to the government through more competitive pricing. The Act applies to all solicitations for bids issued after April 1, 1985.

Understanding the Competition In Contracting Act (CICA)

The CICA provides for full and open competition in the awarding of government contracts. The procedure includes sealed bidding and competitive proposals. CICA mandates that any contract expected to be greater than $25,000 must be advertised at least 15 days prior to bid solicitation. This advertising is intended to increase the number of bidders competing for government contracts, thereby allowing for full and open competition. CICA required the government to follow these procedures with limited exceptions; any departure from CICA must be documented and approved by the appropriate government official.

How CICA Works

"The theory was that more competition for procurements would reduce costs and allow more small businesses to win Federal Government contracts. Under CICA all procurements must be competed as full and open so any qualified company can submit an offer," according to the General Services Administration, an independent agency in charge of IU.S. government procurement.

CICA requires each agency and procuring activity to establish a "competition advocate" within its organization to review and challenge any procurement that limits competition. At the Congressional level, a new Senate subcommittee was established to oversee implementation of CICA and encourage competition for government contracts. 

CICA also established that a protest before contract award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will cause the award to be suspended until GAO rules on the protest. It established a deadline of 90 working days for GAO to issue a ruling or 45 calendar days if the express option is requested by either party.

This provision has been a point of contention over the years due to frivolous protests being filed, according to a research paper published in the Journal of Contract Management.  "While legitimate protests test the integrity of the award process, frivolous protests only test the litigious will of the Government and successful contractors. When contractors submit frivolous protests they are exploiting the protest mechanism to impede competition. Former Office of Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Steven Kelman was a critic of this exploitation. He found that protests were time-consuming and expensive, rendered agencies excessively risk-averse, and decreased goodwill and partnership. In other words, protests disrupt the Government-contractor relationship."

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  1. Johns Hopkins University. "Targeting Frivolous Bid Protests by Revisiting the Competition in Contracting Act's Automatic Stay Provision," Pages 1-2. Accessed March 27, 2021.

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