Pentagon officials have bemoaned the growing number of procurements that have been protested by industry. The rise in protests, however, appears to be overplayed. A handful of high-profile disputes, such as the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker and the Army and Marine Corps’ new humvee, don’t change the fact that the average contractor will do anything to avoid protesting a contract award because most fear retribution from their only customer. Mega-companies such as Boeing or Northrop can afford to risk angering the customer because of their power and influence, say industry executives from smaller firms. But most small and medium companies typically shy away from protesting. “Government customers don’t like it,” says one executive.
“Even when we believe we have a strong case, we’d rather keep quiet and stay in the customer’s good graces.”