Where is the future of government travel headed? A broad cross-section of presenters from private industry and the federal government set out to answer that question on March 6, the second day of the 2018 GovTravels Symposium.
A significant effort by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO) to restructure the Joint Travel Federal Regulation (JTFR) and decrease the page count from 3,600 to 1,200 was an incredible start, but more can be accomplished, according to keynote speaker John Bergin, Senior Executive Service, Business Technology Officer for the Department of Defense (DOD) Chief Information Officer. He noted the typical traveler was trustworthy and a good steward of taxpayer dollars, and verification should focus more on oversight of the process.
"The reality is oversight of the program needs to be highlighted versus trying to prove the traveler was wicked and wasteful," said Bergin. Technology has evolved and allowed for more efficient accountability for the traveler, but government travel has been slow to innovate. DTMO is working incredibly hard to enable the traveler to make better business decisions when they schedule travel and to enhance availability of choices to suit the traveler. Part of the difference too, in a government traveler's experience, is the technology behind their trip. DOD's Defense Travel System (DTS) provides good service, but as a custom-designed system it inherently lacks the flexibility to incorporate the private sector's rapid advances into a mobile-dominated world. By adding "local" policies or looking at travel through fiscal lenses, we add processing time and seem detached from the traveler, and this is being discussed at the Secretary of Defense level. In fact, when Secretary Mattis travels, he often hears complaints about the DTS process taking so much time, which is why he has ensured this process is being improved from the top down. Restructuring the JTFR was a great start that we need to build on.
GOVERNMENT TRAVEL AT A CROSSROADS
Tony D'Astolfo, Travel Technology Expert, moderated a panel focused on real-time use of traveler issues using a variety of mediums, to include feedback via travel agencies, direct contact, apps, and website feedback. D'Astolfo introduced the audience to the term "GAFA" (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), and said "GAFA has figured out that the traveler is more interested in being pushed information versus having to pull it from a web page." The difference between...