In the bullpen: Travel vouchers and the Defense Travel System

  • Published
  • 512th Airlift Wing

Public Affairs note:

A member of the 512th Airlift Wing asked a question regarding the Defense Travel System and what we can do at the wing level to address the issue. The question has been edited to ensure privacy, while maintaining the original intent. To submit your own question to the commander, please send a an email to the Commander's Action Line ( )

Q:  My question, of course, pertains to DTS/orders.  It seems that we have been given 'hand me down' and 'pieced together' software programs to address our order and voucher requirements.  This is true for multiple software programs that AFRC has issued, but DTS and vouchers in general have caught most of the attention.  I don’t place the blame entirely on the software however, our travel regulations are burdensome and confusing.  Budget offices regularly seek advice and interpretation from their command.  The JTR is complicated, and not written specifically for mobility personnel; thereby forcing the FM community to interpret the regulation. 


The regulations, along with the reserve order system and multiple available status', have made it impossible for DTS or any other voucher method to be intuitive or user friendly.  The result of this problem is our current situation; slow-pay, no-pay, incorrect-pay, voucher kick-backs, confusion over the regulations, and stale GTC balances. 


For the last couple years, the units have attempted to solve this issue with manpower.  We have ARTs and TRs working vouchers full time.  With enough manpower, I think we could solve any problem.  My question is this:  When will we decide that our resources are not being appropriately utilized and attempt to actually solve the problem?


I believe that regulation changes are needed to solve voucher problems.  Maybe an AFRC/AMC supplemental travel regulation is the most appropriate way to address the problem; something designed for people who cross 4 time zones in 24 hours; and then sleep during the day at a hotel that charges them for an early check-in and a late check-out!


A properly written regulation would allow for decreased manpower and increased savings in regards to voucher processing.

A:  That is a great question and correct conclusion.  The reality is, we as an enterprise, are lobbying the "corporate" structure to fix it.  The AFRC/DS (SES) has been tasked to address these issues.  He is and has been meeting with all organizations involved in this process.  This is a large undertaking and a complicated issue.  With the congressionally mandated duty status reform and a host of other legal limitations on the expenditure of funds to rewrite code for programs and spending caps and continuing resolutions and etc. etc. etc...This all gets very complicated very fast.  I continue to give the chain of command and our elected representatives the feedback they need to justify the requirement for immediate and corrective action to help resolve reimbursement issues.  AFRC has heard our cry, and the group commanders will be getting new CSS manpower slots to help with orders and paperwork processing.  So that’s what I’m shouting up and what's happening in that realm.


Here’s the best thing I can do with these issues at our level: Put manpower and resources against it to make it better.  More ODTAs at the group or unit level seem to be the best, and potentially, immediate fix.  ODTAs that will work for me, have wing level access and can work across domains.  These ODTAs will do nothing but work towards a solution, 40 hours per week.  I need trained professionals who can do these jobs long term and not worry about other distractions.  I need to continue to preach compliance to my subordinate commanders.  The one area we all can directly impact is the timeliness of voucher submissions.  It requires tough love for the members and tough love for the people who produce orders and mods and process these things to get them in the system.  The average submission time for an RTS voucher is 45 days...why?  We have to get after that metric first.  As long as that metric is floating around out there, we are complaining on shaky ground.  I either need to justify it or destroy it...right now I don't have the data to do the first or the manpower to do the last.  This is why I need everyone's help on this front.  It is a large and complicated problem but nothing that we can't solve with brute force in the short term, until the long term fixes mature.  I'm thinking we are at least 2 years away from seeing real change in the way we do business with our systems, but change is coming.


So let's clean up any old and long term outstanding issues across the board.  If anyone in the wing is having a problem and your voucher is over 6 months old I want to know about it. And I mean anyone.  If you are not getting the support from my FM, I want to know about it.  That’s my failure, and I take responsibility for my processes.  Communication is the key here, and the more information we share on the problems and challenges we are having, the faster I can get things moving.  Consider my comments in the CC call as a first “shot across the bow” on this whole voucher thing.  I will force change here if I must.  My goal is to energize the team to make it happen while we continue to conduct the mission and make all the moving parts churn along...However, it’s not outside my realm of the possible to severely restrict operations in order to give us the breathing room we might need to catch up on all this "stuff" and start again with a clean slate.  I don't want to go there but the longer this takes the better that idea becomes.


To be clear: Fix what we can, and when I'm satisfied that we are doing everything we can, then we can work on what the system dictates to us.  I'm not satisfied we are max performing at our level yet, but I know that we can get there if everyone does their part.


I am always looking for open and honest communication, so thank you for the question and comments, and keep them coming.