GAO comes down on Defense Travel System

“DOD Business Transformation: Defense Travel System Continues to Face Implementation Challenges”

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The Defense Department is inadequately testing and underutilizing the beleaguered Defense Travel System (DTS), according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

DOD is improperly testing system interfaces to ensure that DTS properly shows flight and airfare reservation information. To generate savings and justify DTS’ development, the department should also make sure that DOD employees who can access the system use it, according to “DOD Business Transformation: Defense Travel System Continues to Face Implementation Challenges.” Employees can still use older travel systems, though, because DTS is not yet fully deployed.

GAO offered 10 recommendations for DTS. They included requiring DOD and Northrop Grumman, the system’s prime contractor, to properly test new or modified system interfaces. Another recommendation would require the heads of the military services and agencies to monitor the processing of travel vouchers outside the system and cancel funding for existing travel systems.

DOD concurred with the recommendations. The department said the new Madison software release in DTS addresses flight and airfare information accuracy, and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness is writing a memo that orders increased system usage.

DTS represents an eight-year, $474 million initiative to build a comprehensive, paperless travel system designed to cut administrative costs. The program has come under scrutiny from Congress, travel companies and consumer advocacy groups for possible waste, fraud and abuse. DTS survived a Senate vote in October 2005 that could have killed its future funding.

DTS is an emerging success, said Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation and director of the Defense Business Transformation Agency. The new agency assumed control of 18 business systems including DTS last October.

As of then, Northrop Grumman said DTS has successfully processed more than 1 million authorizations, including more than 90,000 in September 2005. The company said the system, which uses a modified version of Gelco’s Travel Manager software, works at more than half of DOD’s 11,000 sites.

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