Senate to review Defense Travel System

The Defense Travel System, the Defense Department’s all-in-one Web-based travel management solution, will face congressional scrutiny this week, as DOD officials head to Capitol Hill to answer senators’ questions on the long-embattled program.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), will hold the hearing, “The Defense Travel System: Boon or Boondoggle,” Nov. 16. David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, and Thomas Gimble, acting DOD inspector general, will testify.

The hearing is a follow-on to a Sept. 29 hearing in which the committee determined that DOD proceeded with DTS implementation in the face of warnings from the DOD inspector general and the secretary of Defense’s Program Analysis and Evaluation section that the program might not be the best travel solution for the department, according to the committee’s Web site.

“DTS has cost more than was anticipated, is not fully deployed, does not appear to be widely used and may end up costing more than it has saved,” the Web site states.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has repeatedly tried to remove funding for DTS, including introducing an amendment to the 2007 Defense authorization bill that would have allowed the system to receive funding only on a fee-per-use basis. The Senate passed that amendment but it was removed during conference negotiations.

On the Senate floor, Coburn said that program has consistently been late and overbudget, and that DOD employees “would be better off going through Travelocity or Orbitz.”

In September, the Government Accountability Office said DOD overestimated savings for DTS in an internal analysis and failed to fix implementation problems with the system. McCoy Williams, GAO’s director for financial management and assurance, will also testify this week.

Northrop Grumman officials have often defended the program, saying the system saves money and is nearing full deployment at more than 11,000 DOD installations nationwide.

DTS was originally contracted in 1998 as a fee-per-service program but was switched to a cost-plus-profit contract in 2001. According to GAO, the program has cost $474 million since its inception, with $264 million going to Northrop Grumman.

DTS program officers declined to be interviewed ahead of the Senate hearing.

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