Pentagon online travel system moves forward

The Pentagon's end-to-end online travel booking system is expected to be used departmentwide by the end of September, bringing to a close the development phase of the $474 million system.

The Defense Travel System contract, awarded in May 1998, has survived several controversies including a congressional attempt to end the program last October. But with less than a year remaining on a final contract with Northrop Grumman Corp., the system is starting to churn out results.

Each day the system processes an average of 6,000 travel reservations, and that number is increasing by about 10 percent each month, said Rich Fabbre, the DTS program manager.

During the first three months of 2006, DTS set a record for usage by processing more than 700,000 travel documents, more than double the number over the same three months last year, according to Northrop. On March 27, the system logged a record 41,000 users.

DTS has been deployed at 235 of 279 major Defense Department sites; by September, the remaining 44 sites are expected to have it, Fabbre said. Of the 11,000 minor department sites, which include, for example, a two-man recruiting station in Chicago, 7,289 have the system, he said.

Once DTS is up and running, it is expected to save the department $178 million annually through increased productivity and $56 million in direct costs.

A February 2006 restructuring of DTS moved the program out of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and into the newly established Business Transformation Agency, a move that Fabbre said he views as helpful.

"I believe now there is a champion for business transformation, and that is a lot of what DTS is about," Fabbre said. "There's more collaboration than in the past with the business systems."

At the same time as the BTA move, the contracting side of the DTS was separated from the program management office and placed in the Defense Travel Management Office.

Paul Joyce, chief of the commercial travel division in the travel management office, said the consolidation and management of commercial travel through DTS has created a helpful tool for delivering travel services across the department.

In January, the Government Accountability Office found critical flaws and incomplete testing of DTS, resulting in massive delays, but Fabbre said those problems have been corrected.

The DTS program management office has expanded and created more rigorous testing of the systems' qualifications, Fabbre said.

A major challenge in implementing DTS is connecting it with the department's complex and numerous business systems. While 33 have been connected, another five are expected to be connected in the next few months, Fabbre said.

Three final systems may end up not being connected to DTS, Fabbre said.

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