DOD deciding on digitized travel

The fate of the Defense Department's program to digitize temporary duty travel for its 3.2 million personnel hangs in the balance during the next 30 days.

The Defense Travel System apparently failed a pilot test at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and the Pentagon soon will decide whether to proceed with the system by TRW Inc., according to Rich Fabbre, the company's DTS program manager.

Air Force Col. Pamela Arias, program management officer for DTS, will brief Defense officials about the project during the first three weeks of March, Fabbre said. Ed Elgart, the acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for procurement, and Mary Lou McHugh, the assistant deputy undersecretary of Defense for transportation policy, will determine the program's fate probably by the end of the month, Fabbre said.

TRW won the DTS in May 1998, and the company geared its efforts toward passing laboratory tests at Defense Information Systems Agency's Joint Interoperability Test Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and toward a six-week pilot test in the fall of 2000 at Whiteman.

DTS passed the JITC tests in the late summer of 2000, but the "results were not very good" at Whiteman, Fabbre said.

Officials at Whiteman have not yet filed a report on the tests, Fabbre said, but about 4,000 users booked more than 300 trips.

"Response time has been a bit of a thorn," Fabbre said. He blamed DTS' slow performance at Whiteman on training difficulties, infrastructure problems with the T-1 base connection to the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network, and the base's travel methodology.

DTS has lacked a high-level champion since John Hamre left his job as deputy Defense secretary in January 2000. Also, the DTS program management office falls under the DOD comptroller's office and there currently is no DOD comptroller.

The government also did little business process re-engineering to accommodate DTS, according to a Pentagon official familiar with the matter.

For example, DTS has to interface with 43 accounting systems in DOD, Fabbre said.

"It's a complex process. They don't make things easy for you," said Philip Odeen, executive vice president for TRW's Washington, D.C., operations.

Fabbre said DOD has made two big changes — simplifying its voluminous travel regulations and making functional managers of workers their travel approvers. Previously, most installations had their own travel offices that handled approving travel requests.

A Whiteman public affairs officer referred questions about the tests to the spokesman for the program management office for DTS at the Pentagon, Air Force Maj. Brent Calderwood. Calderwood had no comment for this report.

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