The dollar cost involved in the production of a proposal has already been broken down in other Ideas. I would like to add the human cost to the mix.
It seems to be standard practice for solicitations to be released right before the Acquisition Office leaves for the week or season. It is common for Industry to receive a solicitation on a Friday afternoon, or a couple of days before a major holiday (this seems especially true during Spring Break, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Year-end holidays). The expected delivery dates for proposals also play into this issue, requesting delivery on the day after a holiday which inherently means we may have to work through that holiday.
This issue takes a toll on Industry personnel and, just as importantly, their families.
Using less-than-aggressive estimates, each proposal engages over 20 people at each company. Multiply that by the number of companies responding to each solicitation, and then multiply that by the number of solicitations being released by different agencies at the same time for which each company wants/needs to bid. Small- and mid-size companies are especially susceptible to this issue due to their limited resources.
The result of the above equation should be seen as "number of families affected," not just as "number of employees." Government-centered areas, like DC Metro, experience a deeper impact from this issue.
Last year, an Agency announced they would release their solicitation in mid-December. As we got closer to that timeframe, they "confirmed" the date to Dec. 23. At 10am on Dec. 24th, they sent out a notice stating the solicitation would not be released until the beginning of January. While that may seem like a dodged bullet, those of us who were not working on another proposal were now scrambling to restore family plans for the holiday season.
Another solicitation scheduled the proposal delivery on the Monday after Spring Break, after allowing only 3.5 weeks for preparation (including an Orals Deck). At the risk of sounding dramatic, think of our children's expectations for a fun Spring Break.
I don't think the Acquisition Offices do this on purpose to "mess with our lives", but they probably do not realize the impact their decisions have on our schedules. By the way, rushing a solicitation may also represent an additional expense on Government and Industry when they have to release Amendments, Answer to Questions, and/or provide an extension on the due date.
Lastly, tying this back to Industry overall dollar cost (and also to how it can affect Small Businesses) -- if a staff member cannot cancel plans, then there's the additional expense of hiring proposal consultants.