Northrop Grumman: Say good-bye to your travel agent

Northrop Grumman Corp.'s online travel accounting system for federal civilian agencies should be so easy to use that within three years, travel arrangements can be completed without the assistance of a travel agent 90 percent of the time, said Leo Hergenroeder, a Northrop Grumman Mission Systems executive.

The General Services Administration wants 70 percent of transactions to be self-service within three years, Hergenroeder said at a demonstration of Northrop Grumman's civilian e-travel system Tuesday in Washington. GSA manages the governmentwide E-travel program for civilian agencies.

Also today in Washington, Northrop Grumman's Defense Travel System program manager announced enhancements to that system, which handles travel accounting for the Defense Department.

Self-service transactions will cost the agency customer $5.25 per transaction, instead of $25 to $35 with a travel agent, said Hergenroeder, program manager for Northrop Grumman's civilian e-travel system, called GovTrip.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman is one of three companies developing online travel accounting systems under the E-travel initiative. The other two contractors are EDS Corp. of Plano, Texas, and Carlson Wagonlit Government Travel Inc. of San Antonio. The three vendors' contracts are jointly worth $450 million.

Agencies will begin contracting for one of the three systems in April. They must begin migrating to their new systems by Dec. 31. The Transportation Department is expected to issue the first task order for an e-travel system, Hergenroeder said.

The three systems are being evaluated by Federal Aviation Administration staff in Oklahoma City, Okla., he said, adding that Northrop Grumman was the first vendor to complete a travel transaction, on Jan. 7.

"We've been getting positive feedback," Hergenroeder said. "They like it."

The e-travel systems will handle travel arrangements from beginning to end, including booking air travel, hotel accommodations and rental cars, obtaining supervisor approvals, interfacing with agency accounting systems and reimbursing employee expenses.

Using GovTrip is much like using a commercial travel booking system such as Travelocity, except it has features unique to the government.

For example, transactions are authorized with a digital certificate, and known expenses, such as air travel and rental car, are automatically added to the employee's travel voucher. Upon return, the employee only needs to add incidental expenses such as cab fares and tips. GovTrip also allows users to fax in or attach PDF files of receipts and other travel documents, so a permanent, paperless record is created, Hergenroeder said.

Because GovTrip encompasses more travel processes than corporate systems, the company is exploring whether the system could be sold in the commercial market, Hergenroeder said.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems has also built the Defense Travel System, which was approved for departmentwide deployment in December. So far it has been installed at 54 major Defense installations and at about 300 smaller sites, said Rich Fabbre, DTS program manager.

Yesterday DTS processed a record 1,200 transactions. Each month DTS has been handling about 20 percent more transactions, he said.

DOD's 250 major installations account for about 80 percent of the 6 million annual Defense trips, Fabbre said. There are about 1,000 smaller DOD sites, he said.

DOD is now beta testing a new DTS feature, a deployment tool that will be available to all sites in June, Fabbre said. The deployment tool will allow DTS to be installed by staff at each DOD site, without a visit from the Northrop Grumman staff, he said. The result will be much quicker deployments, he said.

Northrop Grumman recently added receipt imaging to DTS, so users no longer have to keep paper copies of their expenses. Instead, they fax receipts in to the system, Fabbre said. The company plans to add a feature that will display all travel expenses made on the employee's credit card, including service charges for getting a travel advance through the card. Then users can drag and drop those expenses into their electronic reimbursement vouchers, he said.

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