Teams Troll For Defense Travel Dollars

Teams Troll For Defense Travel Dollars

By Nick Wakeman
Staff Writer

Teams led by BDM International Inc. and Electronic Data Systems Corp. are coming down to the wire in a pivotal competition to revamp the Defense Department's travel system.

The Defense Travel System contract will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the winning team but will likely pay another dividend. The effort could be a springboard for similar work with other federal agencies and international governments, according to executives with BDM of McLean, Va., and EDS of Plano, Texas. The DTS contract is expected to be awarded in mid-December.

Defense Travel System Contenders

BDM's Team

  • American Express
  • Gelco Government Network
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Oracle Corp.
  • EDS' Team

  • The Sabre Group
  • SatoTravel
  • Motorola
  • Professional Software Consortium
  • Information Technology Solutions Inc.
  • Wilson Scientific Computing
  • The winning team will build a paperless, online travel system. The new system will automate many of the checks now done manually. Defense travelers will be able to electronically book flights and check on their status as well as reserve a rental car and hotel room. Payments and reimbursement will also be made electronically.

    Defense Department officials hope to save millions annually by replacing the costly and inefficient paper system now in use. "We are just spending too much money, and industry is not," said the Army's Col. Al Arnold, project manager for DTS.

    Indeed, the military spent about $3.5 billion on temporary duty travel to send officials to conferences and on short-term assignments in 1993, according to Defense Department estimates.

    About 30 percent of that figure was the Pentagon's cost of managing travel. By contrast, administrative tasks make up less than 10 percent of travel costs in the commercial sector.

    Arnold said the Pentagon's goal is to bring down travel management costs to the private-sector level. One way to do that is to adopt commercial practices, defense officials said. For instance, the Defense Department plans to pay the winner of the contract on a per transaction basis.

    The primes vying for the defense travel system contract have put together formidable teams. Both BDM and EDS have teams that include travel agencies, software developers, database managers and electronic commerce specialists.

    BDM photo

    Richard Fabbre, director of transportation systems at BDM

    EDS team members are: The Sabre Group, Fort Worth, Texas; SatoTravel, Arlington, Va.; Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill.; Professional Software Consortium, Morristown, N.J.; Information Technology Solutions Inc., Hanson, Va.; and Wilson Scientific Computing, Arlington, Va.

    BDM's team includes American Express, New York; Gelco Government Network, Reston, Va.; Sun Microsystems Inc., Mountain View, Calif.; and Oracle Corp., Redwood Shores, Calif.

    BDM photo

    Mitchell Ross, vice president of enterprise management for BDM

    The system will be owned by the winning contractor, who will maintain and update it. "The government will only pay for the transaction," said Mitchell Ross, vice president of enterprise management for BDM.

    Because the system will be built using commercially available products, the government will automatically get any upgrades to those products, he said.

    EDS photo

    Dave Hadsell, EDS' director of business development for government travel and transportation services

    This was a key requirement for the government because the Defense Department wants a platform that will grow with technology, said Dave Hadsell, EDS' director of business development for government travel and transportation services.

    "The Defense Department has to make sure the program can grow," said Robert Deller, an analyst with Market Access International Inc., Chevy Chase, Md.

    The Defense Department began revamping its travel process in 1995 as part of Vice President Al Gore's reinventing government initiative.

    "DoD has approached this very wisely," said Richard Fabbre, director of transportation systems at BDM. "They have tried to adopt commercial practices."

    Because the General Services Administration provides most of the travel management services to the rest of the government, agency officials there are expected to watch the success of the defense effort closely, Ross said.

    "It will be a big plus for the government to pull this off," Deller said. "It will be very easy to show savings of labor costs."

    EDS photo

    Shakil Kidwai, vice president of travel and transportation services for EDS

    Executives from the competing teams are looking to leverage their business expertise.

    "EDS is in a unique position," said Shakil Kidwai, vice president of travel and transportation services for EDS. The company has worked with both the Department of Defense and travel industry for more than 20 years. "We are trying to merge those experiences," he said.

    BDM officials also plan to leverage the company's Defense Department experience, Ross said. "This is a very good systems integration opportunity," he said.

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