With latest version, DOD thinks it's got DTS right

A new version of the Defense Travel System'described by Defense Department and vendor officials as speedier and easier to navigate'began operating this month.

DTS contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. released the new version, dubbed Enhanced Jefferson. The version, developed by Northrop Grumman's mission systems sector, incorporates user feedback from a dozen pilot sites where the travel system has been running for more than a year, Defense officials said.

The system features a redesigned user interface, a Web-friendly architecture, Secure Sockets Layer security, a commercial digital signature module for public-key infrastructure authentication and new tools to ease travel planning. The upgrades are detailed on the DTS Web site, at www.defensetravel.com/dts/site/index.jsp.
The new version comes after years of software integration problems and start-up delays with the program. The problems got so bad a few years ago, senior Defense officials halted the program and demanded an exhaustive, six-month review. Ultimately, Defense brass signed off on a revised DTS development and deployment plan.

Last summer, the Pentagon inspector general issued a report recommending that funding for the system be cut off until a study could determine whether it is the most cost-effective approach to streamline the travel process.

The report was prompted by user complaints that the program was managed ineffectively, causing missed deadlines, cost overruns and system failures.

Air Force Col. Larry Schaefer, program director for the travel system, disagreed with the IG's findings. During a previous interview, Schaefer said DTS has improved decisively and that overall, users are happy.

Contractors agree the new version makes the system easier to use.

Piece of cake

'Travelers are going to love the new look and feel of DTS. The intuitiveness of the system really does make the very complex travel process'from getting travel orders and making reservations to having a check in the bank and the travel card bill paid'very easy,' said Rich Fabbre, Northrop Grumman's DTS program manager. 'The question we hear most often now is 'When is it coming to my base?' '

The new functions include partial payments for temporary duty trips lasting longer than 45 days; the capability to arrange group travel and personal leave tied to official travel; and automated checks to assure data integrity, Northrop Grumman officials said.

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.

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

DOD expects 3.2 million Defense employees to use the system, which it plans to delpoy fully by 2006.

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