DoD has a multi-million dollar travel problem

  • 22 August 2019
  • NormanL

The Government Accoutnability Office has a report out calling on the Defense Department to tighten its controls over how much it spends on travel each year. Sounds fair, right? Every penny spent on a travel should be spent wisely, particularly by the Defense Department, which is supposed to spend its money on protecting our country.

But as the GAO says, there's a very expensive problem:

The Department of Defense reported that its Defense Travel System processed over $965 million in improper payments—payments that should not have been made or were made in an incorrect amount—to service members and civilian employees in fiscal years 2016 through 2018. The system is designed to reimburse individuals after official travel is completed.

DOD has a required plan to prevent and reduce improper travel payments. However, it could do a better job implementing and monitoring it.

So...the Defense Department has a plan to stop wasting money on travel. That's good. It's not really implementing it as it should. That's bad. And the delay is costing almost $325 million per year. That's outrageous:

In October 2016, DOD established a Remediation Plan to reduce improper travel payments and a committee to monitor implementation of the plan at 10 DOD components. DOD selected these 10 components because they accounted for a significant percentage of total travel payments. However, DOD did not take into account the components' own estimates of their improper payment rates. As of March 2019, only 4 of the 9 components that responded to GAO's survey had completed all of the plan's requirements, in part because of a lack of milestones in the plan and ineffective monitoring for required actions. As a result, DOD does not have reasonable assurance that its actions have been sufficient.

DOD has mechanisms to identify errors leading to improper travel payments, and some components have developed specific corrective plans to address the errors. However, GAO found that these efforts did not clearly identify the root causes of the errors, in part because there is no common understanding of what constitutes the root cause of improper travel payments. DOD components also have not incorporated considerations of cost-effectiveness into decisions about whether to take actions that could reduce improper payments. Without addressing these issues, DOD will likely miss opportunities to implement the changes necessary to address the root causes of improper travel payments.

They need to get with the plan right away. You can read the entire GAO report here.