Government travel sits on the cusp of technological, regulatory change.

Author:Marconi, James M.
Position:Conference notes

What shape will the future of government travel take? Eminent presenters from a broad cross-section of private industry and the federal government discussed the contours of policy and technology February 28, 2017, the second day of the GovTravels 2017 symposium.

GovTravels, returning for a second year, brought more than 410 passenger travel stakeholders together for three days of government-industry meetings, high-level speakers and panelists, and 13 educational breakout sessions.

A pressing need for modernization represents a challenge on two fronts--technology and policy--said keynote speaker Jonathan Mostowski, an acquisition strategist for the Defense Digital Service, an agency team of the US Digital Service. There is a growing disparity between DOD travelers' experiences in their personal lives and the systems they use for work.

"The reality is that technology in the federal government is not very good," said Mostowski. "And the reason for that is because most of the technology that we create doesn't have competition. And competition is really what drives things to be better. As far as government systems go, our travel systems are probably on the better end, believe it or not. They actually work, people can actually do what the system is supposed to do...[but] the reality is travel systems are one of those things that we use in the government and we use in our personal life and it's really obvious when one doesn't work."


Part of that difference stems from the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), the extensive compendium of policies that have guided DOD travel for decades. Over time the Department added various policies to solve specific problems, but those policies eventually became unwieldy as a whole.

"DTS [Defense Travel System] implements 1,396 pages of policy, plus another 200 pages of appendices. So really, if you put all this stuff together, it's more like 1,600 pages," said William Booth, Director of the Defense Human Resources Activity. "In my view, it happened because way back when, it was a small amount of policy. And then we had [travelers] do something that was inappropriate, and we put in something to make sure that never happened again. And this repeated over the course of decades. And now what you have in the Joint Travel Regulations is a document that actually conflicts with itself in places. We've got to get the policy simpler, because if we go with the same policy, and then modify any commercial engine to...

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