Data Analytics

GSA seeks travel analysis system

airliner

GSA wants a new data management system that can give the agency better insight into how billions of dollars are spent on travel, with an eye to trimming those expenses.

The agency has asked industry for ideas on what kinds of tools and services it can bring to bear in aggregating and reporting on the almost $17 billion in annual travel expenditures. The request for information said the government sees the ability to collect and use data to control rising costs as a fundamental component of effective travel management.

The RFI said the agency has developed a government-wide travel data service called GSA Travel MIS that has "made significant progress in increasing access to standardized travel data representing a significant percentage of government travel." It explained, however, that even with Travel MIS, "the government travel data environment remains highly fragmented."

The volume of paperwork is huge. GSA estimated that government employees would make about 39 million travel-related charges on about 2.5 million credit cards in each of the coming three fiscal years.

The RFI listed a variety of sources that spew out travel data. They include E-Gov and Defense Travel systems, travel charge card vendors, government-servicing travel agencies (called Travel Management Centers) and individual travel suppliers such as airlines, rental car companies and hotels.

Even though GSA estimated that the federal government would see slackening travel expenditures in the coming years, it still anticipates substantial spending: $15 billion in fiscal 2013, $14.8 billion in 2014 and $14.7 billion in 2015.

The need to see more deeply into those kinds of transactions is the driving force behind the RFP. GSA officials said federal users managing various portions of travel management across the government now use incomplete and non-standard data-sets that are "generally unreliable and un-calibrated tools." Those inadequacies limit the government's ability to do basic travel management, such as strategically sourcing travel service contracts, keeping track of traveler spending from booking to reimbursement, finding cost drivers and ferreting out waste.

"This RFI is a critical next step in the road map GSA is implementing to provide Agencies with the critical information services necessary to manage travel cost and services," said GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson. "This will build upon our current efforts to improve the federal government's use of data and analytic models to better manage travel spend, enhance policy, and bring full 360 degree view for total cost of a trip for the first time from multiple data sources. Each agency will have a full suite of reporting and data analytic services in an effort to save money."

The RFI said GSA wants to better understand three critical capabilities:

  •  The ability to aggregate government-wide travel data into a single standardized repository, including the ability to get travel charge card data from multiple card providers into one standardized database.
  •  Sturdy reporting capabilities that can access aggregated data sources to produce basic and advanced travel management reporting.
  •  Advanced analytics and consulting services that support more detailed, focused, and advanced travel management decisions.

Responses to the RFI are due Sept. 16.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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