The U.S. Department of Defense finally identified the commercial travel system it’s been piloting since June 2016. No one should be surprised that it’s market leader Concur Travel and Expense.
A DOD official told The Company Dime that the pilot is designed to evaluate “the out-of-the-box capability of the commercial-off-the-shelf, software-as-a-service product to meet DOD travel requirements.” The official said the pilot isn’t “a new Defense Travel System, and this is not a new procurement.” Rather, the pilot will inform “future procurement strategy for travel system modernization.”
Primary DTS contractor Northrop Grumman supports the pilot under an existing contract.
The pilot started with a “simplified rule set” taken from the Joint Travel Regulations. It is scheduled to run for about 18 months.
According to information sent by the official, DOD is using “an agile implementation approach.” That means no customization.
“This will allow the department to assess the feasibility of the COTS/SAAS solution as well as identify opportunities for policy simplification and changes to current DOD business processes,” according to the representative.
The next steps are to add users, expand the rule set and test connections to DOD’s financial systems.
Scores of civilian federal agencies use the E-Gov Travel Service. Current vendors are Concur (part of Germany’s SAP) and CWTSatoTravel (part of Carlson Wagonlit Travel). Asked if DOD looked at implementing ETS2, the official wrote: “In making their recommendations for DOD travel system modernization, the U.S. Digital Service considered other travel systems, including systems used by other federal agencies. Their recommendation was to test the feasibility of using a commercial-off-the-shelf, software-as-a-service product for travel reservations and expense management.”
According to a U.S. Digital Service December 2016 report to Congress, DOD spends $8.7 billion on travel annually. DTS accounts for $3.5 billion.
Marques Tibbs-Brewer, a Concur regional sales executive, spoke there during a panel discussion. Later, on NDTA’s Facebook page, he discussed DOD’s new approach. “Right now, the government uses very specialized products that the rest of the world isn’t using,” he said. “Getting access to the commercial environment will allow them to refine their processes based upon best practices throughout the travel industry.”
More effective policy implementation and “access to innovation,” Tibbs-Brewer said, would mean a better user experience. He added that a commercial approach improves access to data, and therefore decision-making, “as opposed to arbitrarily making decisions based on assumptions or presumptions or even reputation.”
Tibbs-Brewer pointed to security as one challenge. Protecting information is important, he said, but not “over protecting it to the point where it doesn’t result in a good user experience.”
Meanwhile, DOD is gearing up for future travel management company solicitations. A request for information in January sought input. Listed interested vendors include Atlas Travel and Technology Group, BCD Travel, CI Azumano Travel, Cornerstone Information Systems and Sun Travel.
DOD also is piloting its first centralized lodging program. It began in summer 2015 with seven sites and, as of January 2017, had grown to 50. The program will run through 2019.
According to the DOD official, the lodging pilot so far has helped the department save $640 million.
Preferred properties have a 78 percent customer satisfaction rate, according to DOD traveler surveys last year. DOD also noted that it began conducting site inspections to ensure properties meet its safety standards.