Management of the Defense Department's much-maligned and behind-schedule paperless travel system has changed hands again, a project manager confirmed Tuesday. Air Force acquisition officer Lt. Col. Larry Schaefer replaced Air Force Col. Pamela Arias earlier this month as director of the Defense Travel System, said Evie Wlodarczyk, project manager for DTS Limited, an interim software solution for travelers awaiting the full launch of the system. Schaefer takes the reins of the project in the midst of testing delays, but adopted a positive attitude toward the assignment. "We will make the vision of the Defense Travel System a reality," he pledged in a statement. Arias will return to her former assignment at Eglin Air Force base in Florida. The long-awaited Defense Travel System promises to streamline everything involved in taking a business trip, from the number of approval signatures required to the process of auditing and processing vouchers. It will also enable employees to request authorization to travel, make arrangements and submit claims from their desktop computers. The system was conceived in 1994. The initial launch was set for December 2000, but has been delayed several times
, most recently by a series of unsuccessful tests by travelers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. New testing is currently underway at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and is "meeting expectations," according to Arias. In May, a spokesman for the Defense Travel System said the Pentagon most likely will begin implementing the travel program
in select areas after it reviews the results of the Ellsworth tests. In March, Arias denied rumors that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might do away with the whole project altogether. By approving the additional testing in Ellsworth, the Pentagon indicated that it likely will move forward with the project.