A decision on the future of the long-awaited Defense Travel System will be made in April, Defense officials said Friday. Air Force Col. Pamela Arias, the Defense Travel System program director, said Defense officials will be briefed in late March or early April on the status of the system, and will make a decision on the future of the program then. The decision will be based on the results of tests that are currently under way, Arias said. "Currently, functional and technical assessments of the Defense Travel System program are being conducted to determine if DTS is meeting the Defense Department's vision of supporting mission requirements, providing customer service, and reducing costs," said Arias. The Defense Travel System missed its Dec. 18, 2000 launch date, which was set in October 2000. Launch of the new system has been delayed several times since its conception in 1994. Arias said she was unaware of rumors that new Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could do away with the whole project altogether. "We have not heard or been advised of any such rumor," she said. The new system will streamline everything involved in taking a business trip, from the number of approval signatures required to auditing and voucher processing. It will also enable employees to request authorization to travel, make arrangements and submit claims from desktop computers. The Defense Department's current travel system uses paper vouchers, invoices and other supporting documents. In January 1995, Defense's Travel Reengineering Task Force found that the department's travel system was fragmented, inefficient and expensive to administer. In early October, Defense officials began a series of tests by travelers at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. The tests showed that training, system set-up and help desk operations needed to be improved for the Defense Travel System to be effective. Since then, there have been improvements in training and help desk operations, Arias said. A second round of tests took place at Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station in South Carolina. The tests confirmed that the quality and delivery of training has improved. "We are confident that the training available today, as well as our help desk concept, is fully capable to support any DTS deployment," said Arias. The Defense Travel System contract, valued at $263.7 million over five years, was awarded in May 1998 to information technology firm BDM International, which shortly after was acquired by TRW. To date, Defense has spent $13.6 million against the contract. The contract initially covers Defense Travel Region 6, which includes 11 states (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin).
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