Defense travel system upgrades are made

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The Defense Travel System, a Web-based Defense travel booking system similar in feel to commercial online booking systems like Expedia or Travelocity, is on schedule to reach 77 sites by October and an additional 90 by the fall of 2006.

Last month, DTS officials began rolling out the latest software release, Madison 1.6, said Michael Simon III, deputy program manager.

The Madison upgrade features a debt management tool. For example, DTS will notify users electronically if they owe money on a trip that is altered in some way. Madison will also speed voucher processing time by sending customers an immediate acknowledgement rather than waiting to verify bank accounts. And the new version includes more user-friendly interfaces, Simon said.

Speaking at the 2004 Directorates of Information Management/Army Knowledge Management conference yesterday, Simon said the goal of DTS is to expedite travel by letting users arrange air, hotel and rental car in five steps or less. Today, that process still takes nine steps or more for many Defense sites.

After Madison, DTS has two remaining software releases.

Through DTS, Defense intends to automate and create a single user interface for travel management departmentwide. DOD awarded Northrop Grumman an eight-year, $267 million contract for the project in May 1998.

Earlier this year, DTS also rolled out a new backup data center in Annapolis. The main site where DTS data is housed is at a Northrop Grumman facility in Fairfax, Va.

The travel system must interface with more than 40 accounting and disbursement systems, as well as Defense databases for tabulating mileage and per-diem rates, a travel records repository, and DOD's public-key infrastructure. Users access DTS via the department's Non-Classified IP Router Network.

DOD expects over three million Defense employees to use the system when it reaches full deployment by Sept. 30, 2006.

DTS has had several years of software integration problems and start-up delays. Two years ago, senior Defense officials halted the program and demanded a six-month review. Ultimately, Defense brass signed off on a revised DTS development and deployment plan and program officials say DTS is back on track.

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