Senate committee takes issue with Defense Travel System

The Defense Travel System is over budget by more than $200 million and behind schedule by four years.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations held a hearing yesterday to see if the Web-based travel booking system could overcome such odds or whether the program had reached boondoggle status.

'This hearing is designed to determine if DTS is the windfall to DOD travel that it was promised to be or simply a waste of taxpayers' money,' said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.)

In theory, DTS was supposed to have a similar feel to commercial online booking systems such as Expedia or Travelocity. Program goals have always been to bring Defense travel from a paper process to an automated one, allowing users to arrange air, hotel and rental car reservations in five steps or less.

But several speakers, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) and a representative from the Government Accountability Office, said the process is not working and that the Defense Travel System Program Office continues to waste money. Thomas F. Gimble, acting Defense inspector general, said his office has begun another audit on DTS.

'Lots of taxpayers' money has been sunk into DTS,' Grassley said. 'We need to know what the taxpayers are getting for their money. Is DTS really the silver bullet that will solve all of DOD's travel problems?'

GAO said it had identified two key challenges that are impeding DTS' goal of becoming DOD's standard travel system: The system needs to develop more interfaces that will tie into DOD business systems, and DTS is underutilized at sites where it has been deployed.

The Defense Department has said DTS is making some significant improvements. Still, Zack Gaddy, director of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, said DTS was never designed to solve all the department's travel management challenges.

'Although there are significant benefits that will accrue from full implementation of DTS, it does not solve all travel management issues, and the department is continuing to explore ways to take advantage of emerging technology,' Gaddy said. 'It provides a tool for management of premium travel and unused tickets, but does not preclude the problems.'

DTS is expected to reach full operational status by the end of 2006.

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