DOD Business Transformation:

Defense Travel System Continues to Face Implementation Challenges

GAO-06-18: Published: Jan 18, 2006. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 2006.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) has been working to develop and implement a standard end-to-end travel system for the last 10 years. Over the past several years numerous GAO reports and testimonies have highlighted problems with DOD's travel practices that resulted in wasteful spending of millions of dollars. In response, the department has noted that the Defense Travel System (DTS), in part, will help correct these problems. Because of the widespread congressional interest in DTS, GAO initiated the audit under the statutory authority of the Comptroller General of the United States. The objectives of the audit were to (1) determine if DOD effectively tested key DTS functionality, (2) ascertain if DTS will correct the weaknesses previously identified, (3) identify the challenges that remain, and (4) identify opportunities to streamline DOD's travel process.

DTS development and implementation have been problematic, especially in the area of testing key functionality to ensure that the system will perform as intended. Consequently, critical flaws have been identified that resulted in significant schedule slippages between the planned and actual system deployment. GAO's recent analysis of selected requirements related to DTS's reservation module disclosed that system testing was ineffective in ensuring that the promised capability has been delivered as intended. For example, GAO found that DOD did not have reasonable assurance that DTS properly displayed flight and airfare information. This problem was not detected prior to deployment, since DOD failed to properly test system interfaces. While DTS has corrected some of the previously reported travel problems, others remain. Specifically, DTS has resolved the problem related to duplicate payment for airline tickets purchased with the centrally billed accounts. However, problems remain related to improper premium-class travel, unused tickets that are not refunded, and accuracy of travelers' claims. These remaining problems cannot be resolved solely within DTS and will take departmentwide action to address. GAO also identified two key challenges facing DTS in becoming DOD's standard travel system: (1) developing needed interfaces and (2) underutilization of DTS at sites where it has been deployed. While DTS has developed 36 interfaces with various DOD business systems, it will have to develop interfaces with at least 18 additional systems--not a trivial task. Additionally, the continued use of the existing legacy travel systems results in underutilization of DTS and affects the savings that DTS was planned to achieve. Furthermore, GAO has identified concepts that the department can adopt to streamline its travel management practices.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Program Management Office-Defense Travel System (PMO-DTS)issued updated policies and procedures in June 2010 that were utilized in the testing of Release 8 of the Defense Travel System. Our analysis conducted in September 2010 of the documentation for Release 8 of the Defense Travel System disclosed that the proposed release was tested (including verification and validation) in accordance with the updated policies and procedures and the release performed as intended with respect to: (1) Unit Testing, (2) Integration Testing, (3) System Testing, (4) System Qualification Testing, and (5) Operational Testing. Further, consistent with the revised policies and procedures, the PMO-DTS also maintained documentation demonstrating the proposed release: (1) underwent a peer review process to ensure that the testing documentation complied with the updated policies and procedures, (2) had testing activities performed by an independent group, and (3) was evaluated to determine whether the required testing processes were effectively implemented. Additionally, the PMO-DTS provided a report demonstrating that updated testing policies and procedures were implemented during the recent DTS Release 8 testing. These actions served to provide DOD management with greater assurance that DTS Release 8 contains all necessary requirements and will function as intended. Further, if these required actions are consistently followed by the department, they should help ensure that any further software releases of the Defense Travel System will provide the system users with the desired functionality.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Project Management Office--Defense Travel System (PMO-DTS) to effectively implement the disciplined processes necessary to provide reasonable assurance that (1) requirements are properly documented and (2) requirements are adequately tested.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we reported that DOD needed to verify the reliability of the interfaces between the Defense Travel System (DTS) and DOD business systems relied on to authorize and process DOD travel. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Project Management Office-Defense Travel System (PMO-DTS) to properly test new or modified system interfaces to validate that the intended functionality was properly operating prior to providing a software update to DTS users. To address our recommendation, in 2006, the PMO-DTS engaged the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Enterprise Level Test Group to independently verify and validate the reliability of the contractor-performed system interface testing. For example, the DFAS Enterprise Level Test Group testing in June 2009 of the documentation for DTS system interfaces related to the DTS system interface for the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning system, including the test plan, test scripts, and test cases, found that the documentation was consistent with best practices and adequate for ensuring that interfaces between systems operated as intended. As a result, DOD has reasonable assurance that DTS system interfaces should operate as intended.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to properly test new or modified system interfaces so that the intended functionality is properly operating prior to a software update being provided to DTS users.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we found that while DOD has taken actions to improve controls related to premium-class (first class or business class) travel, including improvements in controls related to the Defense Travel System (DTS), we identified instances in which premium-class travel continued to occur without the proper authorization. More specifically, our analysis identified at least 68 cases of improper premium-class travel. These improper premium-class travel cases occurred, in part, because DOD's commercial travel offices (CTO) did not notify the traveler when portions of their travel legs were coded as premium-class, and therefore, required approval by a higher authority. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Program Management Office?Defense Travel System (PMO-DTS) to require that all CTOs adhere to the department?s policy on approval for use of premium-class travel, even in those instances where it is listed as the only available airfare. In response to our recommendation, the department took action in 2007 to establish a control procedure in all CTO contracts precluding CTOs from issuing a premium-class ticket at government expense without the receipt of a properly authenticated travel authorization specifically authorizing that class of travel. Furthermore, DOD established a provision in all CTO contracts by which the CTOs are to reimburse the government for the cost difference between a premium-class fare and the lowest appropriate fare, if a premium-class ticket is issued without approval in accordance with DOD policy. DOD's actions, if fully and effectively implemented, should minimize the risk that the department improperly incurs costs associated with unauthorized premium-class travel. This action taken by DOD meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to require that all commercial travel offices adhere to the department's policy on the use of premium-class travel, even in those instances where it is listed as the only available airfare.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The department updated Appendix O-Temporary Duty (TDY) Travel Allowances of the Joint Travel Regulations in March 2009 to provide specific guidance on the various types of travel expenses that are authorized and those expenses that are not authorized. Appendix O identifies the types of exceptions from department policy for which travelers must provide justification and obtain approval from the authorizing official (AO). For example, Appendix O guidance states that the traveler must use coach-class for all official travel, unless premium-class accommodations are justified and approved prior to travel by the appropriate AO. There are separate sections of the appendix that are applicable to the traveler and the AO. Additionally, DTMO has put on the DTS Web site a document, entitled "Authorizing Official Checklist and Helpful Tips," which can be used when reviewing the justification before authorizing an expense or approving a voucher.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the heads of all DOD agencies, to reemphasize that travelers are to justify exceptions from department policy and the importance of the authorizing officials not approving any travel authorization in which exceptions are not properly justified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD officials acknowledged that the department does not know the total number of manual travel vouchers that are processed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service that should be processed through DTS. As a result, the department cannot ascertain the total universe of travel vouchers that are eligible to be processed through DTS or the savings that could be realized through electronic travel voucher processing. In June 2010, we met with DOD officials and they acknowledged that the problem still existed. The department has not developed the means, nor do they plan the develop the means to ascertain the number of vouchers that are processed outside of DTS, that should be processed through DTS.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the heads of all DOD agencies, to routinely monitor, such as on a quarterly basis, information on the number and cost of processing travel vouchers outside of DTS and initiate action to eliminate funding for legacy systems, where applicable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we found that DOD's business processes used by the Defense Travel System (DTS) provided that a traveler's supervisor was to serve as the authorizing official (AO) responsible for authorizing travel and approving payment for associated travel vouchers, including the burdensome process of identifying and approving any differences between actual expenses claimed on the travel voucher and authorized estimated expenses. To reduce the administrative burden on the AO, we recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Project Management Office-DTS (PMO-DTS) to develop and implement the means to automate the approval of changes to authorized travel expenses where possible. DOD added functionality to DTS to facilitate the automatic approval of changes to authorized estimated expenses where such changes were consistent with sound internal controls and DOD policy. In June 2009, we verified that this control feature was added to DTS and that it was operating as intended. As a result, DOD has reduced the administrative burden and cost associated with approving travel expenses.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to develop and implement the means to automate the approval of changes to authorized travel expenses where possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we reported that the Defense Travel System did not have the capability to determine whether a traveler did not use all or a portion of an airline ticket and obtained a refund for the unused portion of the airline ticket as required. To identify and obtain reimbursement for unused airline tickets, we recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Project Management Office-Defense Travel System to consider the viability of using commercial databases to identify unused airline tickets, for which reimbursement should be obtained and thereby help improve the assurance that the actual travel taken was consistent with the information shown on the travel voucher. To address our recommendation, beginning in 2007, the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) required all new Commercial Travel Office (CTO) contracts provide that the CTO identify and cancel any unused tickets 30 days after the planned trip date and initiate a refund request for the cancelled unused tickets. The department's action to establish new CTO contracts was completed by the end of 2009. As a result, DOD should be able to more readily identify and obtain reimbursement for unused airline tickets.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to consider the viability of using commercial databases to identify unused airline tickets, for which reimbursement should be obtained and help improve the assurance that the actual travel taken was consistent with the information shown on the travel voucher.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The intent of this recommendation was to improve usability by reducing the amount of user effort required to identify flights that matched the traveler's schedule in order to meet mission needs. In June 2010, Defense Travel Management Office officials stated that the department was not going to made any additional changes to the manner in which flights were displayed to the traveler.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to consider simplifying the display of airfares in DTS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we reported that a Defense Travel System (DTS) requirement provided that only unrestricted airfares were to be displayed to the traveler, while other airfares (generally referred to as restricted airfares) may, in some cases, be less expensive than a given General Services Administration city-pair fare and other unrestricted airfares. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Project Management Office-Defense Travel System to determine the feasibility, where cost effective, of DTS displaying restricted airfares. To address our recommendation, in 2007, the Defense Travel Management Office contracted with the Logistics Management Institute to conduct a study on the use of restricted airfares. The study was completed in September 2008. To the extent the studies results are reflected in changes to DTS displays for travelers, travelers should be more readily able to identify and use less expensive airfares.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to determine the feasibility of utilizing restricted airfares, where cost effective.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In January 2006, we found that travel receipts were not always attached to a reimbursement travel voucher. Consequently, it was difficult to validate the accuracy of amounts DOD travelers claimed. We recommended that the Secretary of Defense direct the Program Management Office?Defense Travel System (PMO-DTS) to work with the IRS to develop an approach that will permit the use of automated receipts to substantiate travel expenses and thereby reduce the need for hard copy receipts. To address our recommendation, the PMO-DTS has been working with GSA, the federal entity responsible for promulgating travel policy for the federal government, and the IRS, to develop an approach that will permit the use of automated receipts to reduce the need for hard copy receipts. In May 2010, DOD outlined several initiatives to simplify defense travel, including an initiative to adopt electronic receipts to support travelers' expenses. DOD's effort to work with GSA and the IRS to develop an initiative to automate travel receipts, meets the intent of the recommendation. If fully and effectively implemented, DOD's approach to reducing the need for paper receipts should help reduce the administrative burden and the costs incurred for capturing and storing receipts supporting DOD travel expenses.

    Recommendation: To improve the department's management and oversight of DTS and streamline its administrative process for travel, the Secretary of Defense should direct the PMO-DTS to work with Internal Revenue Service to develop an approach that will permit the use of automated methods to reduce the need for hard copy receipts to satisfy requirements to substantiate travel expenses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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