Online booking system eases duty travel in Pacific
Stars and Stripes March 26, 2006
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — A new Web-based travel system being launched at Pacific bases will allow Department of Defense civilians and servicemembers to create their own electronic orders and reimbursement vouchers for routine temporary duty travel.
The Defense Travel System, or DTS, will save time, eliminate paperwork and give users more control and choices, said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Ockens, 35th Comptroller Squadron noncommissioned officer-in-charge of customer support and Misawa’s lead DTS administrator.
“Servicemembers can choose their flight, connection, lodging and rental car, depending on what they’re authorized,” he said.
Instead of printing out one’s orders and making an appointment with the Traffic Management Office, government workers will be able to initiate a travel request at www.defensetravel.com. The program is similar to those of online commercial travel companies such as Expedia.com, military officials said. Travelers can choose their airline seat and enter frequent flier account information on DTS.
One caveat: Servicemembers must first check on Patriot Express availability before using DTS, said Capt. Jim Nelson, 35th Comptroller Squadron financial services officer.
DTS is to be fielded throughout DOD by the end of September, said Bill Graham, Secretary of the Air Force financial manager. Within the Air Force, Pacific Air Forces is one of the last major commands to implement DTS, just ahead of U.S. Air Forces Europe.
The paperless DTS is projected to save the government $56 million annually, Graham said. At Hill Air Force Base in Utah, for instance, the government’s commercial ticket office charged $37 per transaction, he said. “That went to $5” after DTS was installed, he said.
The new system also will cut down on travel arrangement time, said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Easley, the lead DTS administrator for the Marines on Okinawa. “The individual traveler will create their own authorization … all on their own time at their own desk,” he said. “It takes the finance and disbursing offices out of the equation.”
Travel claims with DTS could be paid within two duty days, once the traveler and approving official electronically sign and submit the voucher online to accounting, Ockens said. The process currently can take five or more duty days, he said.
DTS covers routine temporary duty travel for DOD civilians and servicemembers. It does not include travel for dependents, permanent change of station moves, consecutive overseas tours and renewal agreement travel, though the goal is to eventually phase those into DTS, Ockens said.
After a user makes travel reservations on DTS, an approving official from one’s unit reviews the request and must sign off on it electronically to authorize ticketing. DTS also will automatically reserve travel funds, including per diem costs, from a squadron’s budget.
“Units are responsible for managing their own (travel) funds effectively,” Nelson said. “It’s going to require some additional oversight to ensure the travel budget for each unit is being used appropriately.”
DTS will interface with Bank of America, allowing users to view their government travel card expenses on their DTS accounts. They’ll also be able to schedule partial card payments every 30 days while on extended temporary duty or deployments to prevent a delinquent account.
A Common Access Card, a CAC reader and CAC personal identification number are required to use DTS.
With the right equipment, DTS users could complete their travel orders at home on personal computers, Easley said.
Fred Zimmerman contributed to this story.
Program to reach all PACAF bases
In coming weeks, the Air Force will finish the Defense Travel System implementation in the Pacific.
On Okinawa, DTS already is in place and being utilized on Kadena Air Base, according to Army 1st Lt. Bobby Midkiff, a site fielding team leader from the DTS program management office. Midkiff and Tracy Thornton, a DTS fielder for contractor Northrop Grumman, have been on Okinawa since February and will stay until late May to help get the new system off the ground.
“We’re here to provide support to the organizations … to help streamline the business process and electronic process, and make it more efficient,” Midkiff said.
Misawa Air Base begins user training next week; the Navy at Misawa is expected to soon follow suit.
“We’re working issues on Andersen (Air Force Base, Guam), and we’re heading to Yokota next week,” said Richard Grant, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces chief of financial management systems. Kunsan and Osan air bases in South Korea will be two of the last PACAF bases to get DTS, Grant said.
Marines on Okinawa, meanwhile, will begin using DTS at the major commands in late April.
The system then will spread to smaller commands in two-week increments, said Chief Warrant Officer Michael Easley, the lead DTS administrator for the Marines on Okinawa.
Officials did not know the time line for the rest of the Navy and Army in the region.
— Fred Zimmerman and Jennifer H. Svan