DTS test flight ready

An early version of the Defense Travel System that will be available to selected personnel this summer won't be connected to the system's central database or Defense Department accounting systems, but it will bring DOD one step closer to automating its travel operation.

An early version of the Defense Travel System that will be available to

selected personnel this summer won't be connected to the system's central

database or Defense Department accounting systems, but it will bring DOD

one step closer to automating its travel operation.

As DOD and prime contractor TRW Inc. test the final version of DTS,

scheduled for initial operational capability by this fall, the limited version

of the system will allow DOD travelers to become accustomed to the new software

in anticipation of the full rollout.

"The main rationale for DTS-Limited is that we cannot possibly deploy

the full DTS system to all DOD users in a very short time due to the significant

cultural and process changes," said Kay Anderson-Hager, chief of the travel

service acquisition management branch at DOD, in a written response to questions.

"Therefore, the DTS-Limited capability will be provided to our customers

to allow them to reap some of the benefits of the full DTS earlier in the

life cycle."

When completed, DTS will allow about 3 million DOD users to have their

travel authorized and reserved and to receive reimbursement from DOD accounting

systems by connecting to the Defense Travel System Regional Data Center

and commercial reservation systems.

The DTS-Limited system being rolled out in the next few weeks will not

be connected to the centralized data center. However, the early system will

provide authorizations and access to commercial reservations systems through

Gelco Information Network Inc.'s Travel Manager software, said Rich Fabbre,

TRW's DTS program manager.

If another government organization wants access to the DTS common user

interface, commercial travel offices or accounting systems, it can provide

them at its own expense, Anderson-Hager said. Those users will then switch

to full DTS when it is deployed.

Testing Causing New Delays

The earliest users of DTS-Limited will be the users scheduled for later

deployments of the full DTS, Fabbre said. The deployment of the full system

will take two-and-a-half to three years. The DTS program management office

has asked military services and agencies to provide a list of locations

where they want DTS-Limited to be deployed, according to DOD.

TRW expects about $263.7 million in transaction-based business during

five years on the full DTS system, Fabbre said. DOD awarded the company

the contract in May 1998. Electronic Data Systems Corp. protested the award,

but work was reinstated to TRW in October 1998. The delay put the company

about 100 days behind schedule. Work on the system has now fallen about

a year behind schedule, Fabbre said.

"Testing is taking longer than either we or the government envisioned,"

Fabbre said, adding that the complexities of the system and new capabilities

that involve several transactions for a single trip have been obstacles

to keeping the project on schedule. "We would have hoped to have been deployed

by now."

The upfront testing is necessary to ensure that the DTS team provides

a quality product, Anderson-Hager said.

The DTS contract uses an innovative model that involves DOD partnering

with the contractor on development and deployment of the system. It also

dictated that DOD would not own the system but would instead buy use of

it. The contract allows TRW to sell DTS services to any federal agency,

Fabbre said.

Besides Gelco's Travel Manager software, DTS will use American Express

Co.'s travel management services, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s computer hardware

and Oracle Corp.'s database management software.

DOT Plans Own Booking Engine

The Transportation Department plans to offer a similar online booking

engine using a commercial product called ResAssist from TRX Technology

Services, Dallas. The site, FedTrip.gov, is currently being tested at the

Federal Aviation Administration. DOT also released a draft solicitation

for commercial World Wide Web-based travel and expense services April 11.

DOD initially hoped to use a commercial off-the-shelf product for DTS,

but TRW found that while Gelco's Travel Manager came close, it needed to

be modified to fit the look and feel of DTS, Fabbre said. The Gelco software

is what is being deployed as part of the DTS-Limited system.

Gelco Travel Manager's functionality was not modified, but in some cases

the interface and integration hooks to commercial reservation systems and

Defense Finance and Accounting Service accounting systems were customized,

said Dan Ragheb, vice president of corporate marketing at Gelco. The off-the-shelf

product provides the ability to research travel options, but DOD wanted

to include the online booking capability and connections to its accounting

systems, he said.

"The biggest challenge for us has been on the back end with DFAS because

their requirements were not as well-defined when the contract was awarded,"

Ragheb said.

One of the complex features is the DOD public-key infrastructure software

token used to keep unauthorized users out of the system, Fabbre said.

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