Military travel just a mouse click away
by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
The Defense Travel System represents a whole new way of doing business for active duty military, reserve and civilian employees of the Department of Defense. DTS is designed to make the travel process faster, easier and better than ever before. Starting today, MacDill is the latest Air Force installation to use the system.
The DTS team, including representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force Flight Management and Air Mobility Command, handed off responsibility today to MacDill after spending the past two months guiding the installation of DTS.
Staff Sgt. Manuel Feliz, installation personal wireless communication assistant manager, 6th Communication Squadron, made online reservations for a round-trip flight and hotel stay Monday during a live verification process to ensure the system is operating as planned.
Tech. Sgt. Julie Gil, Lead Defense Travel Administrator, 6th Comptroller Squadron, said up to this point, the setup process has gone smoothly but she expects implementation to keep her busy for the next few months.
"It's going to be a hectic four months," she said. "Our goal is to have the entire wing up to speed by the end of August." Major players here making the implementation a success also include the 6th Medical Support Squadron, 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and several directorates from U.S. Central Command and U. S. Special Operations Command.
The vision for DTS is to reengineer defense travel into a seamless, paperless, automated system that meets the needs of individual travelers, force commanders and process owners, such as finance and accounting services. The entirely Web-based system is designed to reduce costs to the government, support defense mission requirements and provide superior customer service to the traveler and to the command.
From 2004 to 2006, DTS will be integrated at more than 250 high-volume sites across the country, serving more than 80 percent of DoD travelers.
Lt. Col. Yolanda Grove, chief of travel reengineering at the Pentagon, explained that using the system is very similar to using online travel companies, such as Travelocity or Orbitz, which use online search engines to find low fares on airline tickets, rental cars and hotel accommodations.
DTS seamlessly automates the three DoD travel processes: authorization, reservation and voucher filing. Using DTS, travelers are able to generate travel authorizations, make trip reservations and route travel requests for approval, all from the computer at their desk.
The system is paperless and uses DoD Public Key Infrastructure certificates to digitally sign documents from their desktop workstation. DTS does not need to load any software on the workstation other than a Web browser plug-in for digital signature authentication and system security.
When the trip is complete, the traveler can create a voucher from the data already stored in the DTS system, and then electronically route it for approval and submission to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. An electronic funds transfer from DFAS to the traveler's bank account completes the process.
"The best part is when a traveler comes back from a trip, he can file the travel voucher right from his desk, without having to take a trip to the finance office," said Sergeant Gil. "This process leaves out the middlemen."
Comprehensive Web-based training courses are available for both new and experienced users. The training is available for classroom instruction as a reinforcement tool for DTS trainers. The course also serves as a refresher-training tool for those who may not use the DTS as often.