Defense Travel System revived

Pentagon entices military organizations to deploy DTS early, with promises they can retain savings

Defense Travel System memo

The Pentagon last week reinstated the Defense Travel System, enticing military organizations to deploy the system early by promising to let them retain any early savings they generate by using the system.

After a six-month review, Pete Aldridge, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and Dov Zakheim, fellow undersecretary and comptroller, determined that "DTS will meet our future temporary duty authorization, arrangements, payment and accounting requirements," according to their jointly signed July 17 memo.

Deployment of DTS had already been delayed for about a year when the change of administrations and questions about the system's training requirements and response time led to the review. The system is being tested at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., with an operational evaluation report to follow as early as next month.

"I think the government recognized that they just had a T-1 line that was saturated" during last year's unsuccessful DTS pilot test at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., said Philip Odeen, executive vice president for Washington, D.C., operations at TRW Inc., the DTS contractor. "They needed a T-3 line." A copper-based T-1 line can get 1.5 megabits/sec transmission speeds, while a fiber-based T-3 can get as much as 45 megabits/sec.

Due to security constraints at Whiteman, each traveler's DTS request would shut down if the base's central server to the Non-Classified IP Router Network (NIPRNET) didn't respond quickly enough, Odeen said.

The memo implemented one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's ideas: to allow military organizations to retain any money they save by working more efficiently.

DTS should allow for travel reimbursements to occur in an average of 5.8 days, as opposed to 11.3 days, while travel report processing should occur in 21 steps as opposed to 40, and processing time should take place on average in 102 minutes, as opposed to 276 minutes, according to the Travelink Web site, www.dtic.mil/travelink/whatisdts.html.

Aldridge and Zakheim's memo calls on armed services chief information officers to determine each military installation's ability to connect to the NIPRNET and use DTS effectively. The DOD CIO will oversee such plans and the Defense Information Systems Agency will provide assistance.

"The services have stated that infrastructure will not be an issue and have agreed to test and fund all their sites to upgrade as necessary for the future," wrote Kenneth Oscar, the acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, in a July 11 memo on DTS.

Aldridge and Zakheim, who will continue to provide DTS policy oversight, transferred DTS program responsibility to the U.S. Transportation Command in their memo.

The Defense Department originally was going to pay a per-transaction fee for DTS, but Oscar authorized the Army Communications-Electronics Command officials to restructure TRW's contract.

TRW has paid "several tens of millions" of dollars developing DTS, while receiving very little pay for the work, Odeen said.

The contract restructure will take place "within the original scope of work to include clear performance, test and exit criteria, as well as a contracting strategy that employs a risk mitigation approach that protects the government's interest," Oscar wrote in his memo.

"I think if we realized it was going to be a two-and-a-half to three-year development effort, as opposed to an 18-month one, we wouldn't have bid on the contract," he said.

The DTS operational evaluation that Aldridge and Zakheim authorized in last week's memo will take "one or two weeks" next month at Ellsworth Air Force Base, after which a full-scale rollout should begin, Odeen said.

The Joint Interoperability Test Command already is testing DTS' operability and suitability for some users at Ellsworth, according to a notice on the Defense Technical Information Center Web site (www.dtic.mil).

NEXT STORY: FirstGov on the front lines

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