Agencies speculate on consolidating online travel apps

Will agencies' electronic-travel initiatives be left waiting at the gate?

Although Office of Management and Budget officials would not confirm plans to order agencies to halt their efforts and participate in the OMB-sponsored E-Travel initiative, some feds said they expect such action soon.

"We're hearing that any migration to a travel system should be put on hold until we evaluate the broader travel system," said William Earle, chief financial officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

"It's a great thing they're thinking this way," said Tim Burke, E-Travel project manager and director of the General Services Administration's Travel Management Policy Division.

Burke said whether or not agencies are using Web applications will be the key to merging efforts easily with the E-Travel portal, which GSA expects will be fully operational by December 2003. But GSA is still in the design phase and can't yet give detailed advice.

The E-Travel team had hoped this month to issue a request for proposals for a booking engine for the portal [GCN, August 12, Page 17], but Burke said the RFP likely will go out in mid-September.

ATF's Earle said the consolidation would bring benefits. "It's not just an e-government initiative," he said. "There are a number of efficiencies in the culture of travel, and you're looking at change for the good of all."

Unlike ATF, the Secret Service isn't halting initial tests of a travel system, said Stephen Colo, the service's assistant director of administration and chief financial officer.

"When a new directive does come out, we will be prepared," Colo said.

OMB has sent memos recently to agencies demanding that they work together on some of its other 24 interagency e-government efforts rather than develop parallel systems.

As to e-travel projects, only the Veterans Affairs Department is proceeding with a full-scale program, Burke said. Other agencies have been testing pieces, including the Defense Department, which has begun a pilot of its initial version of the Defense Travel System.

In use now

"There are three or four different booking engines being used in different stages," he said, and so far about 30 agencies are participating "in some form or fashion" with E-Travel.

Colo said the Secret Service system uses Gelco Expense Management from Gelco Information Network Inc. of Minneapolis.

The Transportation Department began using Gelco's consolidated trip-planning and expense software last May. Defense's DTS pilot also uses the Gelco interface.

Other vendors working with GSA on E-Travel have agreed to use Gelco as the common interface, a company representative said.

The Marshals Service in October will finish piloting a booking system developed by Zegato Solutions Inc. of Lanham, Md. Last April, the International Trade Commission used Zegato software to put part of its travel processes online. VA has been testing a full version of Zegato for about two years

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