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Defense Announces Contract to Replace Cumbersome Travel Booking System

The government will spend $9 million to replace the aging travel booking process.

Within the next few years, it may become easier for Defense Department employees and military personnel to book travel or be reimbursed for official expenses. The department announced Thursday that it had awarded a $9.3 million contract to a company to develop a replacement for its travel booking system.

SAP Concur will build a prototype that eventually will supplant the Defense Travel System, which the department described as “aging and inefficient” in a press release announcing the contract. The Defense Travel System, which first came online in 2001, is the method by which 70 percent of Defense Department official travel is booked and accounts for $9 billion in travel spending. It's also the primary method Defense Department employees and members of the military use to file for reimbursement of expenses while on temporary duty assignments. 

Department officials said they plan to incorporate recent changes to Joint Travel Regulations to make the system not only easier for employees to use, but cheaper. Among the improvements will be to mandate the use of low-cost non-refundable airline tickets in markets where fares are not pre-negotiated, and the system will include the capability to adopt private sector travel processes through IT solutions.

A key point of focus for SAP Concur, which specializes in travel and expense management services for businesses and organizations, will be to reduce the “time and effort” needed for Defense travelers to actually use the system.

“We have a responsibility to ensure our resources are used in the most efficient and effective manner, and given this specific project has such a wide ranging and deep impact—reforms with results like these are crucial,” said John Gibson, chief management officer of the Defense Department.

The current system is frequently the butt of jokes and memes posted on the Internet by Defense employees and service members, who complain it is overcomplicated and time consuming to use.

SAP Concur is expected to complete its prototype within 24 months, the department said.

Earlier this year, the system was the subject of the Defense Department’s fifth annual bug bounty program, where hackers were paid nearly $80,000 to find more than 60 cybersecurity vulnerabilities, of which 28 were deemed highly severe or critical.