Someone Should Teach The Pentagon About Expedia And Travelocity

from the they-work! dept

What is it about the government that they always seem to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on unnecessary computer systems that don’t work? The FBI famously spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a system that never worked at all and had to be scrapped in favor of a new $500 million system that we have little confidence will work very well either. Especially when the FBI doesn’t seem willing to use things like Google when they could help. So, it should come as no surprise to find out that the Pentagon’s new travel booking system, which they undoubtedly spent millions on, is the type of system that Pentagon employees work to get around using, rather than actually using. A study has found that the system “fails to find the cheapest airfares, offers an incomplete list of flights and hotels and won’t recognize travel categories used by the National Guard and Reserves.” Instead, most Pentagon employees end up calling up travel agents or do the booking on their own, and then manually enter it into the system. In fact 83% of Pentagon trips are set up outside of the system. Aren’t you glad your taxpayer money went to this fancy system that no one actually uses because it can’t hold a candle to other options? As with the FBI system, it looks like a case where some defense contractors convinced the deep pocketed government to spend millions on building a system from scratch when they could have just used tools that were already out there and, well, battle tested.

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Comments on “Someone Should Teach The Pentagon About Expedia And Travelocity”

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Stu says:

How hard would it be to find the gov’t employee who pushed the project in this direction?

You can bet that if a bloodhound like the Special Prosecutor who got Abramoff was let loose on this case he’d find major graft.

With enough public outcry in the newspapers and an ally or two in Congress, it could happen. Of course, that assumes anyone really cares.

Bill says:

Re: Re:

But the ultimate recipients of graft are the flyover states. Contractors in (say) Arkansas are given these deals as favors to their congresspeople. This happens because the economies of the flyover states don’t generate enough jobs/wealth to keep their people employed/happy. So they demand pork from their representatives. And because we live in states with electricity etc. we just suck it up while they grovel for crumbs dropped under the table.

slimcat (profile) says:

Re: Thank goodness its not for health care

I have ‘payed’ Blue Cross health care as part of my retirement package but, as a veteran, I have opted to receive my health care from the Veterans Administration. Blue Cross covers a portion of my VA medical costs but I also pay a percentage for office visits and other services because of my income level. Yeah, the VA is using Windows XP and I would be happier if they were using Debian GNU/Linux, but in eight years there has not been any problems with my medical information and things go pretty smoothly. The VA’s once deserved reputation for poor service to vets is no longer the case. In fact, they have been the world leader in several areas of medical research. My point is, not all areas of government services are as bad as we hear they are.

As a former firefighter, EMT, Paramedic, I came across many people who had worked all their lives but couldn’t afford basic health care for themselves which, to me, is a travesty. I believe ‘Socialized’ medicine would be one of the best things that ever happened here in the US. We just need to break the strangle-hold of big health care corporations, giant multinational drug companies and the mystique that doctors are some kind of gods which, I assure you, they aren’t.

Just my two cents worth.

Frank says:

Re: Re: Thank goodness its not for health care

… the VA being good …

I think you missed the point. Do you really want the same organization that brought us the $500 toilet seat taking over the medical industry?

Once there is an enforced monopoly, do you really think that you will still receive good medical care?

Remember the government enforced phone monopoly? Remember “we don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the phone company?” Do you really want the hospital or the doctor on call to have that attitude?

ebrke says:

Re: Re: Re: Thank goodness its not for health care

I’m self employed, and pretty soon, I’m not going to be able to afford “good medical care”. My healthcare insurance premium is coming up fast on the mortgage payment for my house. Sure, this country has good medical care, but if the cost makes it available only to the priviledged few, which is where we’re headed, that good medical care is pretty much moot.

Terry says:

Re: Thank goodness its not for health care

Well if other countries can provide public health care that has better outcomes (for example, child mortality) than the American system maybe it is time to look at a single-payer system, like we have in Canada. At leasst here there is enough economic clout to be able to negotiate with Big Pharma and get better drug prices. Granted, our system has its own warts but at least we are not dragged down by lawyers arguing about who will pay what bills. In Britain, France and the Scandinavian countries there are lots of examples to show that when EVERYONE has health care the system can be responsive and efficient. God help the poor American who loses his job and consequently his medical plan who has an ill child or spouse…. America, you can probably do it better than any of us have if you just get started.

Frank says:

Re: Re: Thank goodness its not for health care

like we have in Canada

And just why do all the Canadians that can afford it come across the border for health care?

What are the results if we factor out the illegal aliens in the United States? Read up on how they’re flooding California’s hospitals. Take them out of equation and the American system is probably better.

By the way, I worked with an English gentlemen who was rather irrate at his native country for telling his mother to go home and die because she was too old for health care. Single payer doesn’t magically produce less cost. And monopolies historically have hideous service — which is what the medical field is all about.

Rog says:

Gee, I find it very interesting that six of the seven authors who submitted comments prior to mine assumed the government had wasted big bucks on a new travel booking system — even though the article they were commenting on had NO cost information about the DoD system it supposedly analyzed.

So many of you fear the government is going to make you “sheep” — have you ever considered the possibility that you’ve already been hoodwinked by corporate interests and their Republican errand boys?

Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “Republicans” and “boys” in the same sentence — the former’s all too likely to stalk, harass, and attempt to seduce the latter.

There’s nothing wrong with having and expressing an informed opinion — but jumping to conclusions without first getting the facts is irresponsible. Maybe the Pentagon travel system really is a terrible waste of money — we can’t actually tell from the article, can we?

Frank says:

Re: Re:

Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “Republicans” and “boys” in the same sentence — the former’s (sic) all too likely to stalk, harass, and attempt to seduce the latter.

And of course when Democrat Studds stalked, harassed, and actually had sex with the pages (versus just virtual sex) that was okay, because it was a Democrat performing gay statutory rape.

Give it up. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are sleaze buckets.

Oh, and the Democrat gay pedophile Studds kept his job and the Democrat leadership didn’t do anything.

Congratulations on your blatant partisan hypocrisy.

Anonymous Coward says:

why dint they do a "dogpile engine"

why dint they make a meta-search engine like dogpile? personally I dont use it myself, but its simply one that queries like the top 30 or so if I remember right – everything between Google, yahoo, msn, alta-vista, ask, etc… and then puts it on one list.

heck, they could even figure out what taxes they don’t have to pay for being govt, and what the price is directly from the hotel or airline so they don’t have to pay the middleman of the travel site…

J says:

Gov idiocy

This is probably money never spent.
I find it very hard to believe that money for “special” areas comes from a normal place. This money was probably spent on a secret “something” that needed this kind of money.

Makes a lot more sense than “We hired the dumbest idiots on the face of the planet to build us a crappy system! They spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build us a system that never worked in the first place. All this to avoid falling into a common place with the rest of the U.S.”

discojohnson says:

being a real user of the system...

DTS was at the beginning a giant piece of shjt. it moved into a better POS. it was not always great at finding the cheapest place or airfair. it would, however, give you results every single time you said “i need to go from BFE to new york tomorrow” and would come up with a trip that might involve a biplane and a camel. however, the “expedia” experience was only part of the design of the system. DTS makes a once stop shop for cradle to grave of all travel paperwork, electronically, which is the longest part of any gov’t travel (used to be: fill out these forms to get the request started, have it signed by a bunch of people, do your travel booking, travel, come back, fill out another form, copy your receipts, get a few signatures from people that probably don’t sit in your office, and return said paperwork (in triplicate) to another office within 3 duty days). now it’s an email prompted workflow process with digital signatures, and you can see where it’s sitting at any point so you know who to blame when your voucher is taking too long.

so /rant. was the system expensive: yes. did it save the gov’t money: yes (from a military perspective: the personnel required to do this at any finance office was substantial, plus the doctors needed to care for them, the housing, the long term medical for those that retired, the retirement pay, the added supervisory chain for more people, etc)…yes in the course of the project it will save the gov’t a lot of money

Ken says:

DTS = Defense Travel System :)

The Defense Travel System (DTS) is by far the most confusing apparatus for computing monies. I use it whenever I go TDY. I have to. However, it works; for now.

I have to research what flights I want to take right off the DTS web site. I did compare them to web sites such as Expedia and Travelocity. The prices were relatively the same. DTS even recommends which ones to take by recommending the cheapest flights. I am speaking for myself. I have no clue how many people actually do research.

I am not saying the government is perfect, but I am saying that the government is trying to fix things. There are many ways to fix things. You could add to the problem or offer a way to help. Where are your suggestions?

I would also like to remind everybody that the government is run by the people. If you think something could be done better or you think you can do better contact your mayor, city counselor, congressman or apply for the thousands of available government positions out there. Join the military, join your local ASPCA, hell, I do not care. Just quit complaining about things that you can change.

Johnson says:

Re: DTS = Defense Travel System :)

I would also like to remind everybody that the government is run by the people.

Who are “the people”? The people at large? The taxpayer? Joe voter? What color is the sky in your world?

In my world, the government is run by bureaucrats who get the same pay whether they solve my problem or tell me to stick it. I interface with a government project that is using obsolete equipment, paying a massive premium for it, and no one cares. Why? Because the paperwork to change the specification is too painful – much better to keep buying expensive, obsolete equipment that they don’t make any more. If you point this out to anybody what happens? They no longer give you the information that you need to do your job.

So, you were almost right. The government is run “by people” (not “the people”). And these people don’t work for the commercial world because they are incompetent, have their own little power trips, or are too stupid and lazy to get a job elsewhere.

Are all government workers worthless piles of excrement that should be incinerated? No. Only about 75 to 90% of the government civilian workforce.

Fazookus says:


I work for Uncle Sam at a civilian agency; we have to use something called “Govtrip”, a product of, you guessed it, Northrup Grumman Mission Systems.

I’ve never seen a worse web site… it crashes right and left, produces options that don’t actually exist, and the like. My personal favorite was when all the airline schedules were annotated as “seating not available”, which, I found out later from talking to a human being to get around a govrtip crash, actually meant that they hadn’t gotten the lists of available seats from the airlines, not that the seats were not actually available.

The web site would have been bad enough if Govtrip actually was useful once you managed to work around the bugs, but it isn’t. For example, to fly non-stop round-trip the 300 mile flight from New York City to Buffalo, NY costs $1,050.00 through Govtrip, and $240 if you book yourself a flight with Jet Blue…

Stu’s comment above hit’s the problem right on the head… this is just a good old fashioned case of someone in a position of authority abusing that authority by sending tons of taxpayer’s money to their pals in the private sector, in this case a defense contractor. There’s no way in the world a system that wouldn’t meet commercial standards anywhere was given the business legitimately.

Ken, dude, I’m glad you have success with DTS, it’s certainly not what happens with it’s brother Govtrip.


Fazookus says:

Re: Re: Govtrip

Not to detract from anything you said, but government software developers aren’t so hot either. I’ve seen plenty of software projects developed by government personnel that are as totally worthless as what you describe.

Actually I wouldn’t make the argument that web sites should be made by gov’t programmers… we use other sites for various purposes (personnel, financial, that kind of thing) that have been coded by private contractors and they actually are usable, commercial grade products that save the taxpayer’s money and our time.

Our old travel system consisted of separate programs, one was internal to the agency that was used to input financial information (travel orders and then vouchers to actually reimburse you) and the other was a web site run by the travel agancy that had the contract and which was used to schedule and book tickets.

The travel agency’s site worked just fine (and it’s cost was included in their fee, unlike Govtrip) and the internal program was awkward but it worked, too, Combining the two is a good idea, in theory, but in practice it’s a gigantic mess.

If govtrip worked I’d be all for it, but it doesn’t work, and that’s the issue: The gov’t is paying big bucks for what is essentially a website that combines two databases into one and it’s getting massively ripped off. Hundreds of millions of dollars for running a web site?

Chief says:

DTS, GovTrip - Pentagon Not the Bad Guy

There’s a huge point that everyone seems to be missing in this chain…the Pentagon rarely has anything to do with fostering new programs like DTS, GovTrip, etc. These programs are designed and developed at the various Agencies–not the Pentagon. Agencies with specific responsibilities are usually given only broad-stroke guidelines to provide improved service (travel, health care, human resources, or whatever). The Agency, if unable to perform the task in-house, then gets contractors invloved and develops preliminary standards and goals.

Having been a (government) program manager, and having worked with developers to try to develop a comprehensive, user-friendly, piece of software for a broad user base, I can tell you that it reminded me of having a dozen cooks in a kitchen, each with their own idea of the “perfect” receipe for apple pie. They can’t agreee on the kind of apples, to say nothing of the spices.

The military health care system recently underwent a major transformation in automating medical records and appointment scheduling throughout the forces. It was done quietly, and with no fanfare. Let’s cheer for some of the successes in the system, rather than resorting to Government-bashing for every failed attempt at improvement.

Johnson says:

Welcome to Orwell's World

Let’s cheer for some of the successes in the system, rather than resorting to Government-bashing for every failed attempt at improvement.

Oh my God, you’re right. I forgot. The government is my friend. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. The government is here to help. Everything is okay. I like it the way it is. I wish everything was like the government … More power to the government …

Roger says:

DTS is as bad if not worse than NMCI

OMG I have been on DTS for almost 2 years now and it is soooo painful. Slow, cumbersome, non user friendly navigation. I spend more time fixing problems ans waiting on help desk return calls that my productivity suffers to the point where I lose at least 3-4 hours a month. If congress or senate members had to use this it woudl last 1 week tops!

George Couch says:

GovTrip travel accounting system

The government likes to spend lots of money on systems that don’t work. USDA currently uses GovTrip for employees to account for and submit for reimbursement for travel expenses. I am on a 90-day detail and have a large travel bill. Gov Trip is so messed up that a $40 error out of a $6,600 bill can’t be processed. And the system does not allow me to fix it. So, my government travel card bill probably won’t get paid on time, as I don’t have $6,600 lying around. I am highly pissed. I value my credit and doing the right thing, and GovTrip is screwing that all up.

Ro Gal says:

DTS still a burden to tax payers

I’ve been using this terrible system for 7 years now and I just cannot fathom WHY it is still around. The amount of effort performed by help desk and repetitive training alone is reason enough to abandon this in favor of a “flat rate”, with the option of the traveller making their own reservation within Gov’t rates or allowing the system to automated their request. ANYONE associated with this program should be ashamed to say they work on the DTS program. A total waste…and now we want our gov’t to manage our healthcare? What is wrong with people that thy allow this?

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