Navy set for e-travel

The Navy has rolled out the Defense Travel System, which uses a digital certificate embedded in the Common Access Card

Defense Travel System

The vision of using a digital certificate to electronically sign documents is finally becoming a reality for the Defense Department.

The Navy is the first to roll out the Defense Travel System (DTS), which uses the digital certificate embedded in a user's Common Access Card (CAC) to electronically sign travel vouchers. The CAC contains a computer chip that can store information and applications.

DTS, which is being deployed in a handful of locations this year, is designed to be a paperless travel system. The digital certificate embedded in the CAC will ensure that the document is "signed" by the proper person and that the documents have not been changed from the time they were sent.

DOD's current travel system is far from paperless. Instead, it relies on printed orders, paper vouchers, receipts and other documents.

The new system, with its ability to sign documents electronically, presents DOD with new opportunities in electronic commerce, said David Wennergren, deputy chief information officer for e-business and security at the Navy Department and leader of DOD's effort to distribute CACs departmentwide.

DTS, an e-commerce application itself, is expected to improve the current system. It will cut average reimbursement time from 11 days to five days, and reimbursement requests will require 21 steps instead of the 40 steps required now, officials said.

Rich Fabbre, DTS program manager for TRW Inc., which is developing the system, said the system's goal is to coordinate with the CAC program office. Those who do not have a CAC will be given a software-based digital certificate to install on their PCs. The digital signature enables the travel voucher to be transferred electronically through the process, Fabbre said.

"If it is on a card, then it is only mine. It hasn't been in anybody else's possession," he said.

Fabbre said the program office has coordinated with the Navy so that DTS can be part of the service's rollout of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), the Navy's massive effort to improve its information technology infrastructure.

"There is close coordination with Navy and NMCI so those deployments go hand in hand where possible," he said. The hope is that DTS will be a part of the standard software suite on NMCI PCs.

The rollout will enable other applications to use the lessons learned from the implementation of DTS, Wennergren said.

"Because you have this common vision, people are pretty adamant about doing it right," he said. n

***

Good returns

The Defense Department's Common Access Card is crucial to making its Defense Travel System a paperless application.

At the initial Navy sites, travel requests are routed electronically from the traveler to the appropriate supervisor for approval and a digital signature. When travelers return, they file claims from their desktop computers.

Reimbursement is normally made within 72 hours of approval from organizations’ authorizing official and can be paid to travelers’ individual charge cards or personal bank accounts.

By having the certificates embedded in the card, they are more secure, said David Wennergren, deputy chief information officer for e-business and security at the Navy Department.

The tokens are stored on the smart card itself, rather than as software on a PC’s hard drive. The latter option makes the token susceptible to malicious uses, Wennergren said.

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