Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., – chairwoman of the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation – sent a letter to Pentagon officials requesting information on the cancellation of a $374 million contract aimed at replacing the agency’s Defense Travel System (DTS), according to a press release from the committee today.

The June 30 letter, addressed to Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Gilbert Cisneros, publicly kicks off Rep. Mace’s investigation of the Defense Department’s (DoD) sudden cancellation of a multi-million dollar, years-long contract intended to replace its “archaic, quarter-century old” DTS with MyTravel – a subscription-based, software as a service system.

“The rapid reversal on MyTravel – a system being developed for DoD for over four years at a direct cost of more than $20 million – is troubling. It inevitably raises broader questions about DoD’s ability to manage its finances and information technology,” Rep. Mace wrote.

The Pentagon’s current travel system dates back to 1998. DTS has long been used for the vast majority of DoD trips and travel expenses – including $8.4 billion in travel outlays in Fiscal Year 2022, the largest amount since Fiscal Year 2011, the letter reads.

Due to a legion of inefficiencies, DTS generated nearly $1 billion in improper payments from fiscal years 2016 through 2018, according to a 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The system is also notoriously difficult and time-consuming to navigate.

In August 2018, DoD worked to outsource the development of a new system by awarding an Other Transactional Agreement (OTA) procurement, and in September 2021, it issued a justification for a sole source award to SAP’s Concur Technologies for implementation of a new system. The DoD predicted that MyTravel would reduce the cost per trip for millions of DoD trips taken annually.

According to the White House’s fiscal year 2024 budget issued in March, MyTravel was expected to be fully implemented and rolled out to the services in “late FY 2023.” According to Rep. Mace’s letter, that request followed an Oct. 21, 2022, memo issued by Cisneros requiring use of the system across DoD components.

Despite this, on May 24 of this year, an internal memo stated that DoD plans to cease the use of MyTravel on Sept. 13, 2023.

In a briefing earlier this month with committee staff, DoD officials indicated the primary reason the contract was terminated was that DoD components are unprepared to implement MyTravel. DoD officials attributed this to a delay in performing financial management system upgrades to integrate those systems with MyTravel.

In Rep. Mace’s letter to Cisneros, she requested that he respond to specific questions like why the department terminated the MyTravel contract that has been in the works for years, and what the alternatives are for the aging system going forward.

As part of the investigation, Rep. Mace is calling on both the Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the GAO, Elizabeth Field, as well as DoD’s Cisneros to testify at a hearing before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation on July 18.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.