Defense will outsource travel
Under a new Defense Travel System, travel arrangements will shift from DOD to
commercial travel agents. DOD staff will enter information at their PCs into the Common
User Interface (CUI), which the travel agents will be able to access.
In many cases, DOD has spent more money administering travel services than on the
travel itself, according to department estimates. Travel administration has cost DOD
between $60 to $100 per trip for military personnel on temporary duty (TDY) assignments.
Multiply that by 5 million room nights per year booked by the Pentagon and the 1.3
million DOD travelers who took the bus in 1996, and the enormity of the problem becomes
clear, DOD officials said.
"Anybody that's ever gone TDY knows how cumbersome the current process is from the
orders to the vouchers to the arrangements," said Col. Albert Arnold, DTS project
"There's a lot of steps, and what we found was it was a mission just to do the
TDY. We do the TDYs for the mission and that's what we should be focusing on, not the
reverse. Travel administration is not and should not be one of the DOD core
To achieve the department's vision of a seamless, paperless and less costly DTS, DOD is
decentralizing the process and putting greater responsibility in the hands of the
travelers and their supervisors. The department has streamlined the procedures used to
approve military travel and reimburse DOD travelers. It also has simplified the
entitlements and statutory requirements associated with TDY travel.
DOD is now encouraging the use of travel credit cards and will allow
split-disbursement-reimbursing a traveler's personal account and a government charge card
account within five days. But the department plans random audits to help ensure that
honesty and integrity prevail, Arnold said.
"This is going to be a travel system for anybody in DOD that does TDY
travel," Arnold said. "We are outsourcing and procuring travel services. We're
not buying information technology. We certainly understand that IT will be used to provide
us with these travel services but I'm not buying a computer for every desk. We can't
DOD will require that under the DTS all transactions be handled using electronic data
interchange. The traveler will initiate a travel request with the CUI, which generates a
trip record with estimates for a traveler's boss to approve. The CUI will also generate a
housing and transportation request for action by the commercial travel office (CTO).
After the trip, the traveler will submit expense data and reimbursement forms using the
CUI. The system will route the record to the traveler's boss for approval and then forward
it to the disbursing office. DOD will keep an archival database of the trip records.
There are five steps in the process: "authorize trips before we go, approve the
payments for reimbursement, do the random audit, post payment and, of course, the final
accounting," Arnold said.
Initial tests at 27 pilot sites throughout DOD found the system reduced travel
processing times from 13 hours to one hour. The department will implement the new system
at each of its 10 Defense travel regions (DTRs) on a piecemeal basis, Arnold said.
"We have a standards profile for our travel system," he said. "It's
based on the joint tactical architecture. We plan to eventually migrate to the Defense
Information Infrastructure. That's what it's all about in the IT community. We can't get
there from here if we don't base it on standards."
DTR 6, 11 states and 70 installations in the upper Midwest stretching from North Dakota
to Kentucky, will serve as DOD's first guinea pig for the DTS. Arnold's office will
release a request for proposals for DTR 6 travel services early this summer and award a
contract in November.
DOD will implement the Defense Travel System in DTR 6 early next year. If it's
successful, the department will roll it out to the additional regions later in 1998 and
"We're not putting out a statement of work in our RFP," Arnold said.
"We're putting out a requirements document and its part of the proposal that vendors
will provide to us. They're going to write their own SOW telling us how they're going to
do it. We're not going to tell them how to do it. To me that's real outsourcing. That's
using best industry practices."
Despite the Defense Travel System's approach that assumes travelers are honest and
responsible, DOD is working to keep fraud in check by pursuing an electronic signature
capability. Digital signatures will ensure that travelers are entitled to funds and that
officials have the authority to authorize travel, Arnold said.
"We have a significant effort ongoing right now with digital signature," he
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service will perform accounting functions, disburse
funds based on CUI computations, conduct prepayment audits, and assist with random