Mr. CHOCOLA. Mr. Chairman, in 1998, the Department of Defense had a very good idea. They had the idea that they should consolidate the literally millions of trips DOD personnel made every year on an electronic-based travel management system that would result in quicker, easier, and more efficient travel and thus saving taxpayers money.
Despite the good idea, Mr. Chairman, 8 years and almost $500 million later, what we have is a no-bid contract to develop a system that is essentially inoperable, has pitifully low utilization rates, and cannot even guarantee it can book the lowest applicable airfare. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, my amendment would simply limit the money available to fund this failed effort, which is known as the Defense Travel System, or the DTS.
Now, I know that some will oppose this amendment and they will say that we cannot afford to stop the investment now because we have invested so much and we are so close to success. The unfortunate reality is that we must stop now because we have wasted so much and success is nowhere in sight. I think that argument has been made in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and now 2006; and I think it is time to cut our losses.
After 8 years of development and almost $500 million spent, less than 15 percent of all DOD travel is actually booked on the system. Logically, that means over 85 percent of the travel in DOD is booked on traditional travel services. Every trip that is booked on the system is also manually reviewed by a travel agent to confirm that the transaction is complete and that it has attained the lowest applicable airfare because the system cannot guarantee that it can attain the lowest applicable airfare.
So if you divided the amount of taxpayer money we have invested in this system with the number of trips that have actually been successfully booked on this system, each transaction costs about $1,500 before the actual travel cost or the travel agent fee. And what makes this situation even worse is that there are other GSA-approved electronic-based travel systems that are fully operational today and do not cost the taxpayers one penny in maintenance or development cost and only charge on a per-transaction
basis for every successful transaction when it is actually used.
Mr. Chairman, spending $.5 billion on a travel system that does not work and nobody uses might actually be worse than the days when the DOD spent $640 on toilet seats. At least people used the toilet seats.
Mr. Chairman, I encourage my colleagues to support the amendment.
Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, this amendment would bar all funds in this act for development, deployment, or operations [Page: H4274]
for the Defense Travel System. This would put us back to millions of individual transactions that would be almost totally unaccountable and which would have no proper oversight.
I admire the gentleman's goal in trying to come up with a system that is better than DTS, but I don't think he has done that. He has just done away with the DTS. We are attempting to get some integrated financial management at the Pentagon, and DTS is just one of the many programs that is trying to accomplish this integration. The program has some problems, but I don't think we ought to kill the effort and go back to ground zero and start all over again.
The prohibition on spending any money to develop, deploy or operate would bar the Department from even operating the current system and would also bar the Department from continuing any improvements to DTS. This would ultimately leave the Department's 3.5 million active duty military, reserve, and civilian employees without any travel system. DTS is currently the only system that can meet the full spectrum of cost, capability, security, and savings requirements, as well as the protection of personal
information so important to the Defense Department and its global travelers.
Interrupting development of this important program would cause an enormous disruption, adversely affecting and, in some cases, seriously jeopardizing Defense Department mission requirements. I believe this amendment is well intended, but I believe that barring all funding would be a serious mistake, so I oppose the amendment.
Mr. HENSARLING. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to support the amendment of the gentleman from Indiana. Certainly there is no government agency or no government Department that is immune from having waste, fraud, or abuse and duplication; and this does indeed include the Department of Defense.
I have no doubt that there is much hard work that has been done by the gentleman from Florida, the chairman of the subcommittee, but I also believe that every single Member of this body has a responsibility, has a duty in these challenging fiscal times to root out the waste, the fraud, the abuse, and the duplication wherever they can find it.
I think that once again, as we look at how much money the taxpayers have already invested in a system that clearly does not work, when 85 percent, approximately 85 percent of the travel out of DOD is booked in other systems and only 15 percent in the DTS, clearly there are alternative systems available. GSA has already approved two E-travel systems that are being used throughout the Federal Government and could also be used by DOD.
So what we have now is already $.5 billion that is being invested in a system that doesn't seem to save any money, and certainly I don't think the case can be made that it is essential to our national security or essential to our war effort.
We are sitting here in very challenging fiscal times, when our national debt, in just a few years, has gone from $5.5 trillion to $8.5 trillion, Mr. Chairman. Of course, at the same time, tax revenues have escalated. We have personal tax revenues up 15 percent and corporate tax revenues are up 40 percent. That would seem to indicate that the challenge in the national debt is on the spending side.
So when you have 10,000 Federal programs spread across 500 to 600 different agencies, it is almost impossible for any one Member or any one committee to have effective oversight on each and every one. So I applaud the gentleman from Indiana on his work here. Because we all know that soon, soon in America's future we will face a very, very bad fork in the road. One fork is going to lead us to a Federal Government that consists of almost nothing but Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. There
may be no Department of Defense. There may be no Border Patrol. We will see that in one generation.
The other fork in the road is going to lead to doubling of taxes on the American people. And that is unconscionable, Mr. Chairman. It is just unconscionable. We all know the old saying a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we are talking about real money. Well, it looks like we have at least $.5 billion here that has been spent on a system that nobody is using, that costs way beyond what the marketplace is charging now, and there are alternative systems developed by private enterprise
that are doing a better job and being utilized by others.
So, indeed, our Nation faces two great threats. The war on terror, of course, is the greatest threat; but we have another threat, and that is out-of-control spending. And every Member, every Member of this body has the responsibility to root out the waste, the fraud, and the abuse; and that is why I salute the gentleman from Indiana for what he has done.
I don't think the case has been made that this is essential to our national defense. I don't think the case has been made that it is helping taxpayers. So we need to prevent future tax increases. We need to prevent more debt being placed upon our children and our grandchildren, and I think we need to adopt the amendment of the gentleman from Indiana, and I once again salute him for his work.
Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
I want to thank the gentleman from Indiana for offering his amendment to H.R. 5631. Mr. Chocola has been a constant fighter against waste, fraud, and abuse, and today he offers an amendment that gives us sound responsible oversight, which is a critical part of our job here in Congress. He has done us a favor by bringing this program to our attention.
The Defense Travel System was envisioned as an end-to-end E-travel system for DOD employees. Yet with the money spent, we could have, for the next 40 years, given Orbitz $1 million a month; plus, with the additional $50 million that we are putting in, we could pay them another $4 million a month just to use their computer system to do approximately the same thing.
Or else, if we had decided for the 15 percent of the people who are actually using the system, we could have bought a fleet of $250 million personal jets and used $1 million a year to fuel those jets up and fly the people around.
All the facts point to a system that is behind schedule, overbudget, and inoperably broken, costing taxpayers a lot of money. At times like this, Congress should help agencies stop digging themselves deeper holes. This amendment will stop funding this wasteful program and allow DOD to stop digging themselves into a deeper hole they should not be in and reconsider a better plan for scheduling, ticketing, and paying for travel.
I urge my colleagues to support the gentleman's amendment.