TRW lands contract to revamp DOD travel

The Defense Department moved a step closer to one-stop electronic shopping for travel services with the award last week of a $263.7 million contract to TRW Inc. under the Defense Travel System program.

DTS will replace an antiquated paper-based travel voucher process, which can take 25 steps to complete, with an integrated computer-based system that handles everything from pre-travel arrangements to trip authorization to payment— all without paper forms.

Top Pentagon officials hailed DTS as a prime example of how DOD can save money and time by adopting new processes and practices from the commercial arena— a central tenet of Defense Secretary William Cohen's strategy to reform DOD business operations. Cohen said DTS "is an outstanding example of commitment to best business practices, outlined in the Defense Reform Initiative I unveiled last November.''

BDM International Inc. originally bid as the prime, but since has been acquired by TRW.Under its contract, TRW will provide travel services for 200,000 military and DOD civilian employees in 11 Midwestern states, which the Pentagon calls Defense Travel Region 6. But DOD plans to field the new travel system worldwide by 2001. The Pentagon estimates that the program, by reducing administrative overhead, will save the department $300 million annually.

The Pentagon said DTS will feature data banks of information on hotel, airline and rental car availability; travel regulations; and numerous other requirements for start-to-stop travel administration. All services will be accessed through a common user interface based on commercial off-the-shelf software.

Adopting Paperless Contracting

The contract is a linchpin in the Pentagon's plans to adopt paperless contracting and commercial business practices by the Year 2000. Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, who has spearheaded the Pentagon's paperless contracting projects, said, "This contract puts in place an automated approach to travel that mirrors the best practices of industry."

Hamre said pilot tests of the system "resulted in traveler reimbursement in half the time, processing in half the steps and overall administration in one-third the time. Costs fell 65 percent, and customer satisfaction improved dramatically."

When he launched the travel re-engineering effort, Hamre told Congress that it took DOD two to five hours to complete each travel voucher, "with estimated labor costs of about $45 to $115.'' TRW estimated that the Pentagon currently spends about $1 billion a year to process $3 billion worth of travel vouchers.

Eben Townes, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., called DTS the "first highly visible re-engineering contract [let by the Pentagon under Cohen's leadership], and as such, there's a lot at stake here. There's going to be a lot of interest in this because this is where the rubber meets the road.'' From a practical point of view, Townes said, the Pentagon definitely needs DTS "because it can't afford to spend $1 to process $3 in travel expenses.''

Phil Odeen, executive vice president of TRW's Systems and Information Technology Group— the new TRW division that includes BDM International Inc.— called DTS "a key infrastructure improvement program that will result in savings that can be used for weapons systems modernization.''

The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to roll out a pilot public-key infrastructure program, using Netscape Communications Corp. secure server and browser software, to support DTS, according to Frank Perry, DISA's technical director. Perry said the agency already has installed Netscape server software at megacenters in Pennsylvania and Colorado to support DTS, and he estimated that DISA can support up to 250,000 users.

TRW tapped Gelco Information Network of Minneapolis to provide the travel management software for DTS. Gelco, through its Government Services Division in Reston, Va., currently provides its Travel Manager software to more than 80 federal agencies and received certification last year from the Army.

Travel Manager is a modular program that automates the entire travel document process, including authorizations, reservations, vouchers, payments and reimbursements. Gelco said the software can operate from virtually any computer platform "and can integrate/interface with every federal financial management system.''

TRW partnered with American Express Co. to provide travel management services for DTS. An American Express spokeswoman said the company, which last month announced that it would drop out of the government travel and purchase card business, has not decided to exit other government business and remains "very interested" in serving federal as well as state and local government customers.

TRW also selected Sun Microsystems Inc. to provide computer hardware and Oracle Corp. to provide the database management software.

Electronic Data Systems Corp. was the only other company to bid on the contact, and an industry source called the loss of the contact "a real blow'' to the troubled EDS Federal Division. EDS' partners included the Sabre computer reservation system, developed by American Airlines parent AMR Inc.; and SATO Inc., a consortium of scheduled airlines that provide official travel services to DOD.

An EDS spokesman said the company was "very disappointed at its loss," adding, "We'll assess what action we'll take after our debriefing.''


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