Two firms will power E-Travel

"We saw two exceptional providers on cost, value and creativity," said Tim Burke, GSA's E-Travel program manager. The contract was awarded Aug. 13.

Government travel will enter a new era over the next several years as two companies go head to head to provide online travel management services to federal civilian agencies.

The General Services Administration picked Northrop Grumman Corp. and Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel Inc. for the 10-year E-Travel contract, which has a ceiling of $450 million. The two companies will compete against each other to sell services to individual agencies.

"We saw two exceptional providers on cost, value and creativity," said Tim Burke, GSA's E-Travel program manager. The contract was awarded Aug. 13.

The two companies will offer end-to-end, Web-based solutions that handle everything from processing travel authorizations and making reservations to claims submission and voucher reconciliation.

E-Travel is "an opportunity to apply today's technology to the federal travel process," said Craig Thompson, vice president of government markets for Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel of San Antonio.

Thompson said the company developed its solution three years ago, combining programs it had developed with self-booking software from TRX Inc., which numerous federal agencies already use, and Sabre Inc., which travel agents and corporate travel departments use.

E-Travel is one of 25 cross-agency e-government initiatives that seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. E-Travel is expected to cut in half the $1 billion that agencies otherwise would spend on travel services during the next 10 years, Burke said.

According to GSA, savings will be realized in two ways: improved work flow and actual cost savings. For example, moving from phone to online booking will save 25 percent to 60 percent per transaction, and new governmentwide travel data will improve negotiations with travel vendors. In addition, using a commercially hosted Web service will cut the government's technology costs, the agency said.

The two vendors will make their services available for governmentwide use by December. All civilian agencies must migrate to the new services by Sept. 30, 2006. The Defense Department will field its own electronic travel services via the Defense Travel System, which began rollout earlier this year.

"We will expect to hit that [schedule] without any trouble," Burke said. He said his team is working with the 24 largest agencies to determine when each one will move to E-Travel and how much implementation will cost.

GSA, with 22 other agencies, conducted a six-month review before choosing the two contractors. Their solutions are similar; the primary difference between them is their user interfaces, Burke said. The contractors will be able to refresh their software periodically, so the services will stay state of the art, he said.

The solution offered by Northrop Grumman's Mission Systems unit, in Reston, Va., is called GovTrip. With it, Northrop Grumman will provide implementation, training and the capability to interact with agency financial systems. Company staff will work with agencies to configure GovTrip to support their travel processes and preferences, said Leo Hergenroeder, Northrop Grumman's E-Travel service program manager.

The company's team includes Rosenbluth International Inc. of Philadelphia, a travel services provider, and TRX of Atlanta, a travel technology company.

"We think we have a very attractive value proposition, and we will be able to win most of the task orders," Hergenroeder said.

Thompson said the Carson Wagonlit Government Travel's solution uses "technology you and I would be comfortable with. If you are comfortable on the Internet, filling out forms and ordering something, you're going to be comfortable using this."

In addition to TRX and Sabre of Southlake, Texas, Carlson Wagonlit's partners include ClearNova Inc. of Suwanee, Ga., a Web solutions firm; Gradkell Systems Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., an IT services firm; ImageTag Inc. of Chandler, Ariz., a document management company; and SNVC LC of Fairfax, Va., an information security provider.

Thompson said most federal agencies appear to be planning to move to E-Travel between 2004 and 2006.

"It's our understanding that a lot of agencies are anxious to get started," he said. "Unlike a lot of other things, this improves their processes." *

Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery can be reached at gemery@postnewsweektech.com.

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