Senators to DOD: Pull the plug on DTS

Senators continued their attack on the Defense Travel System for its cost overruns, lack of user acceptance and poor performance, and threatened to terminate the program.

'The evidence is in, and it confirms the disappointing truth. DTS does not work,' said Sen. Norman Coleman (R-Minn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations, yesterday. 'DOD now has the opportunity to pull the plug on DTS, and I recommend they take it.'

Coleman criticized DTS's development costs, which have ballooned from $273 million to nearly half a billion dollars over the last four years.

A potential fix for DTS also emerged from subcommittee testimony, however: separating financial management, which has performed well, from booking, which has been described as underused and ineffective. Both Coleman and subcommittee member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) were enthusiastic about that possibility.

But Coburn, a frequent critic of the program, also threatened to kill DTS if it is not fixed.

'You have until next year,' he said, addressing David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, who testified at the hearing, 'or there won't be any money going for DTS as long as I am a senator.'

The Government Accountability Office blasted DTS in a September 2006 report for its questionable savings claims and weak management. Two more recent reports are adding fuel to the fire.

A subcommittee investigation concluded that more than 83 percent of DOD personnel are not using DTS to arrange their travel, according to Coleman.

A DOD inspector general report released earlier this month stated that five of the 27 DOD sites visited were not using DTS at all, and that 'the remaining sites continued to sometimes use legacy systems.'

Acting DOD inspector general Thomas Gimble added, in testimony before the committee, that he couldn't determine whether DTS is cost-effective because DOD lacks data to substantiate DTS and legacy system costs.

Chu, however, contended that DOD has begun to address DTS shortcomings. DOD will study 'the feasibility of separating the financial infrastructure of the Defense Travel System from the travel reservation process,' he said. 'DTS' original focus was on financial management and not on a booking system. This explains some of the challenges DTS has experienced.'

Gimble noted that DTS' financial management functionality has yielded 'dramatic improvements' in the reimbursement and budget management processes.

'We will eventually solve the problems,' Chu pledged. 'We are more interested in correcting problems than in depending on any specific software.'

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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