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Electronic travel system streamlines business process

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 31, 2006) -- The Air Force has completed deployment of a new computerized travel system at all its major installations.

The Defense Travel System was installed Aug. 10 at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., marking the end of a nearly three-year deployment of the system to bases in both the United States and overseas, said Lt. Col. Gary Nanfito, the military assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller, and previously the chief of travel re-engineering.

"We have now brought DTS to 81 major Air Force installations in the United States," he said.

The new system, used by all branches of the military, makes it easier for Airmen to create orders for common business travel.

"DTS is a fully integrated financial management system that allows a traveler to set up their travel reservations and estimate the expenses they will incur," he said. "It basically prepares a travel order for the member."

With DTS, a process that used to take days to complete on paper and required multiple in-person trips to the finance office, can now be done online at one Web site. Airmen can create a travel authorization and book airline tickets, lodging and rental cars from one location. Once they digitally sign the documents with their Common Access Card, the authorization is electronically routed to approving officials.

"Once the member goes through and signs the authorization and the approving official approves it -- the orders are done," Colonel Nanfito said. "You don't have to go to finance anymore to get the orders certified. This expedites the task of processing travel orders and reduces the traffic in the local finance office."

When a traveler returns to their home station following duty travel, DTS simplifies the process of filing a travel voucher. With DTS, the entire process of filing a voucher, including submitting travel receipts, is all done online. The system allows the user to either scan in their receipts and upload them to DTS, or fax them to the DTS system, which then scans and uploads them to a user's DTS account for the intended voucher.

"Once all that is in there, you can digitally sign your voucher and it goes off to the approving official," Colonel Nanfito said. "Within a few days of the approving official signing the document, you will be paid."

Payment, too, is electronic with split disbursement directly to the individual charge card and personal bank account.

The DTS system was mandated by the Department of Defense for all agencies within the Department. In 2003, the Air Force served as a test base for the system when DTS was installed at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. After the test was proven successful, the DOD, the Air Force, and other branches of the service began installing DTS at bases across the entire DOD. Today, DTS is in use at more than 8,750 sites worldwide, and has processed more than 2.5 million travel authorizations and 2.1 million travel vouchers.

While DTS does eliminate a lot of paperwork and footwork in the travel process, the system does not yet cover all aspects of military travel. Right now, the system is used primarily for business travel.

DTS does not work for traditional Air National Guard members or Air Force reservists. The system is also not yet able to process permanent change of station travel orders or contingency travel, such as travel to support the war on terrorism as part of an AEF rotation. Colonel Nanfito said DOD is working to get those types of travel into DTS.

"The goal is to have all types of travel," he said. "The Air Force is working very hard with the DTS program management office to get deployment travel, permanent duty travel and traditional Air National Guardsmen and Air Force reservists included in the DTS system."

Today, the Air Force, the other services and the entire DOD are working to optimize business practices. That effort, Colonel Nanfito said, is what made transition to DTS such a logical step.

"It was time to leverage automation and technology," he said. "It was time to take what was a very paper- and labor-intensive process, and to streamline it and make it simplified and as cost-efficient. DTS has taken out a lot of the labor intensive manual steps and built a system that streamlines travel. There have been challenges, no doubt. But the system itself is improving every day and the main goal is to make it more user friendly."