Frequent travel has been a facet of a military lifestyle since the conception of human conflict. Long before Greek soldiers fought the Peloponnesian War, a traveling song and a longing for home were two ever-present realities of a soldier’s existence. Leaving behind responsibilities and loved ones can be stressful, and until recently, so could the logistical preparation for the journey.
In 1995, the Department of Defense formed a task force aimed at relieving aspects of that stress, including replacement of a travel system they said was fragmented, inefficient, expensive and occasionally adverse to mission accomplishment.
Eleven years and many miles later, the Defense Travel System wants to revolutionize the military traveler’s experience. According to its Web site, DTS is a seamless, paperless, automated system that meets the needs of individual travelers, force commanders, and process owners.
Nationally, it must slowly gain the understanding and acceptance from a military that takes solace in the repetitive nature of its training—a new, complicated system is a tough sell. For the 9th Marine Corps District, the constant travel demands on its Marines and civilians means they cannot afford the luxury of a grace period.
“Apprehension with the new system is constant, but it is like anything else–if it’s new you are not going to understand it,” said Maj. Kenneth Graham, 9th MCD Headquarters comptroller. “Marine OnLine is a perfect example of that. It will take a while–maybe three or four trips–to become adjusted.”
Once one gains a working knowledge of DTS, its many programs allow travelers to:
• input and update travel requests at their desk;
• update travel preferences in a personal profile;
• input and digitally sign actual trip information;
• use actual trip information to prepare a claim;
• review the status of a trip record at any time;
• input and digitally sign supplemental information for a closed trip;
• receive quicker travel reimbursements.
Some at district headquarters have already gained an appreciation for the new system and its many options.
Graham said that those that use the system often, such as the Contact Team, have found it easy to navigate and much faster than the previous structure.
“Once you get the hang of it, it is much better than the old,” said Rich Eaton, 9th MCD Headquarters Contact Team administrative assistant, who works on many more travel claims than your average district member. “It is definitely faster and less of a headache.”
The system’s district success is varied, however, as those who use the system infrequently are often forced to ask many questions, eliminating the system’s intended benefit of timeliness.
Diane Lanahan, 9th MCD Headquarters deputy comptroller, said that in time everyone will become acclimated to the new system, and then DTS will become a true asset to the District.
DTS still has room for improvement, but the procedures and technology are in place to give service members one less thing to worry about when they leave for TAD with their traveling song and a longing for home in tow.
For more information or training on DTS, visit their Web site at www.defensetravel.osd.mil.