Pentagon sticks with long-delayed Defense Travel System

The Defense Department will move forward with its much-anticipated paperless travel system, according to Pentagon officials. The Defense Travel System (DTS) "will meet our future temporary duty travel authorization, arrangements, payment and accounting requirements, while providing broad benefits to the department," said Dov S. Zakheim, Defense Department comptroller, and E.C. Aldridge, undersecretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, in a July 17 memo. In March, former DTS Director Col. Pamela Arias said Defense officials planned to make a formal announcement on the future of the long-awaited travel system in mid-spring. At that time, she denied rumors that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might do away with the project altogether. Earlier this month, Air Force acquisition officer Lt. Col. Larry Schaefer replaced Arias as director of the travel program. To encourage early deployment of the system, Zakheim and Aldridge announced a policy that will allow Defense sites that use the system to keep any savings it generates. The memo also shifted program responsibility for DTS from the Defense Department's comptroller to the Transportation Command. The Transportation Command provides land, sea and air transportation to Defense units. The Defense Travel System, which will be funded with congressional appropriations through fiscal 2003, 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 paperless system was conceived in 1994, and Defense awarded a contract to develop DTS to TRW Inc. in May 1998. 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. The tests at Whiteman showed that training, system set-up and help desk operations needed improvement. New testing is currently under way at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and is going well, according to DTS officials and TRW's project manager for DTS, Rich Fabbre. "There were some fundamental changes made at Ellsworth," he said. Fabbre said DTS will be implemented at select sites, including Ellsworth, in September, after testing is complete.
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