Travel Process Reengineering:

DOD Faces Challenges in Using Industry Practices to Reduce Costs

AIMD/NSIAD-95-90: Published: Mar 2, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) travel management processes and costs, focusing on whether DOD should adopt private-sector practices to improve its travel processes.

GAO found that: (1) DOD travel management processes are wasteful and burdensome and involve multiple travel agents and voucher processing centers; (2) in fiscal year 1993, 30 percent of DOD temporary duty travel costs were spent on processing; (3) DOD average processing costs are well above the 10-percent average reported by private companies and the 6-percent rate that the travel industry considers efficient; (4) leading travel industry companies have been able to dramatically improve service and reduce processing costs by reengineering their travel management and adopting best practices that empower their employees to make travel decisions, reduce the number of travel agents, consolidate multiple travel processing centers, and simplify travel policies; (5) DOD could significantly reduce its costs and streamline its travel management by following the private-sector example; (6) in July 1994, a DOD task force recommended that DOD apply private-sector best practices as part of its effort to reengineer its travel management; and (7) DOD will need sustained commitment and oversight by top management to implement the task force's recommendation and change its travel processes.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the transition team with the necessary resources and authority to carry out its mandate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Officials of DOD's Reengineering Travel Transition Organization indicated that Defense has provided sustained commitment to the travel process reengineering initiative and that their organization continues to have the resources and authority necessary to carry out its mandate. Initially approved by the Deputy Secretary, the reengineering initiative remains a high-visibility program under the direction of the Comptroller, who has the authority to change any policy, procedure, process, or regulation within Defense to achieve streamlining objectives. The Comptroller has made the effort one of his highest priorities and has ensured that the transition organization has the financial, staff, and contractor resources necessary to accomplish its objectives.

    Recommendation: To improve management of travel processes and reduce costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the travel reengineering transition team to establish performance indicators to monitor progress towards meeting travel improvement objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has instituted performance indicators to monitor travel reengineering progress. Indicators include time and cost to process travel orders and customer satisfaction surveys--all measured against a current baseline. The indicators were used in the pilot tests to validate the travel reengineering concept of operations and to help develop a solicitation for the new Defense Travel System. Pilot test results reported to Congress in June 1997 showed a 48-percent decrease in both average cycle time and travel process steps, a 63-percent decrease in average voucher processing time, and a 56-percent decrease in average processing costs. Customer satisfaction increased by close to 100 percent on many indicators, showing endorsement of the travel reengineering concept of operations.

    Recommendation: To improve management of travel processes and reduce costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the travel reengineering transition team to structure pilot efforts as a means of: (1) identifying and documenting projected costs, benefits, and savings; (2) determining the need for changes or waivers to applicable statutes and regulations; and (3) ensuring that adequate controls are maintained to safeguard government assets prior to agencywide implementation of proposed travel process changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD began pilots in 1995 to test the new travel processing concept of operations, gather baseline data and demonstrate costs and benefits of new processes, and help identify requirements for a new Defense Travel System. The 27 pilots were completed by March 31, 1997. Legislative changes identified via the pilots, and needed to support travel process reengineering, were included in the FY 1997 DOD Authorization Act. DOD is working with IRS to get a waiver for electronic retention of receipts. Pilot efforts have also helped ensure that adequate controls, such as software edit checks and random audits, are in place. A report on overall pilot test results was submitted to Congress in June 1997.

    Recommendation: To improve management of travel processes and reduce costs, the Secretary of Defense should direct the travel reengineering transition team to establish milestones for implementation of the task force recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has established milestones for implementation of travel reengineering task force recommendations. The milestones are in various stages of completion. For example, DOD completed its 27 pilot tests of the new concept of operations by March 1997, subsequently analyzed the test results against a baseline of old manual processes, and reported the results to Congress in June 1997. Work on random audits of reengineered travel processes is ongoing. A government-wide conference on statistical sampling helped support development of random audit procedures. The Request for Proposals for a new commercial off-the-shelf Defense Travel System was released in June 1997, with DTS contract award for Defense Travel Region 6 expected this December.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide the transition team with the leadership and oversight needed to gain acceptance, maintain progress, and ensure that process changes are implemented consistently throughout the Department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An 0-8 steering group, including representatives at the two-star general level, continues to meet on an as-needed basis to discuss digital signature and other issues associated with the travel reengineering effort. An 0-6 working group, including representation at the GS-15 level, also continues to meet weekly to coordinate pilots and the efforts of other issue-specific teams of which they form part. The Reengineering Travel Transition Office, charged with implementing the travel reengineering effort, continues to lead training on various aspects of new travel management processes, such as use of the government credit card. A teaching package for chain training on new travel processes has been installed in the services. Further, a video on travel processing at the pilot test sites and a course on conducting random audits have both been completed.

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