IG wants to freeze funds for travel system

Col. Larry Schaefer, program manager for DTS

The Pentagon inspector general has recommended that funding for the Defense Travel System, an electronic program to arrange business travel for Defense employees, be halted until a study determines whether it is the most cost-effective approach to streamline the travel process.

In a July 1 draft report prompted by user complaints, David Steensma, acting assistant IG for auditing, said an audit indicated that the paperless travel system had been managed ineffectively, resulting in missed deadlines, cost overruns and system failures.

Steensma recommended that the development and deployment of DTS be suspended pending a cost-effectiveness study. He also recommended that the DTS program should be managed as a major automated information system acquisition, subject to the requirements of the Clinger-Cohen Act, to ensure proper oversight. DOD's CIO considers the program a special-interest initiative.

'DOD envisioned that DTS would represent a 21st-century model of efficiency and service, featuring the best practices in industry and plug-and-play components,' Steensma said in the report.

That has yet to materialize, he said.

'Sound business practices and an IT investment that borders on a half-billion dollars dictate a need for a process to assess progress toward established goals, especially for cost, performance, schedule and security. Such a process has not been established for DTS,' Steensma said.

DTS program office and other Defense officials disagreed with the recommendation to halt funding and said progress had been made on the program. Officials did agree to perform a cost-effectiveness study. Results are due by Oct. 1.

Halting the program now would affect operations at the pilot sites and be very expensive, said Dov S. Zakheim, undersecretary of Defense and chief financial officer.

New oversight

Air Force Col. Larry Schaefer, program manager for DTS, said DOD is designating DTS an Acquisition Category IAM Program, which would improve oversight and make it subject to DOD's requirements and acquisition management directives.

Schaefer said DTS has improved considerably since he came on board in July and that it has been running smoothly at a dozen pilot sites across the country.

Defense will issue a request for proposals in October to travel agents. Schaefer said DOD expects 3.2 million Defense employees to use the system once it is fully deployed by 2006. The rollout to users throughout DOD is slated to begin next year, he said.

The goal is for DTS to help DOD employees arrange travel and receive reimbursement faster than they did with the old paper system.

The eight-year, $267 million contract was awarded to TRW Inc. in May 1998. Steensma said an audit shows the travel program would end up costing about $492 million to deploy, 87 percent more than the original contract value.

TRW is automating Defense travel documentation and merging several travel services into a single system with one interface. The paperless system lets travelers use DOD public-key infrastructure certificates to sign documents digitally.

40 systems

The system will connect with more than 40 accounting and disbursing systems, DOD's table of official distances, a per-diem rates database, a digital repository for records management and management information, and DOD's PKI program, all using the Non-Classified IP Router Network.

TRW will run DTS under Sun Solaris 2.6 on a redundant cluster of Sun Enterprise 6000 servers. The system will store data in an Oracle8 Release 8.1.6 database and use a modified version of Travel Manager from Gelco Information Network Inc. of Minneapolis.

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