DOD, GAO spar over travel booking system

When fully deployed, the Defense Department estimates that its travel booking system will save $56 million each year in net savings. The Government Accountability Office, however, calls that figure “highly questionable.”

In a report issued yesterday, GAO said two key assumptions DOD used in a September 2003 economic analysis to estimate net savings of the Defense Travel System (DTS) were not based on reliable information. Those two assumptions were that the Air Force and Navy would save $24.2 million each year in personnel savings by using DTS, and that more than $31 million would be saved in reduced commercial travel office fees.

The Navy and Air Force told GAO that they did not anticipate reducing the number of personnel after DTS was implemented, but would likely shift staff from travel functions to other areas. The Naval Cost Analysis Division added that the Navy would not realize any tangible personnel cost savings by implementing DTS.

Furthermore, the DTS program management office could not provide GAO any analysis supporting the claim that the commercial travel office fees would result in $31 million in annual savings.

“We found that the … assumption was based solely upon an article that appeared in a travel industry trade publication,” GAO wrote in its report entitled: “Reported Savings Questionable and Implementation Challenges Remain.”

GAO also found that the DOD did not have quantitative metrics in place to measure the extent to which DTS is being used.

The Defense Department mostly agreed with GAO’s four recommendations but strongly disagreed with GAO’s findings that “personnel savings are unrealistic.”

“I strongly object to the study’s finding that personnel savings are unrealistic merely because savings were applied to compelling, unfunded needs,” wrote David S. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Northrop Grumman, DTS’ prime contractor, issued a statement saying while officials had not had time to review the GAO report, “we stand behind the Defense Travel System and believe it will result in significant cost savings for Department of Defense users once deployment is complete.”

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