ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Air Force Reserve Command is adding resources and changing business practices to make travel voucher processing easier for reservists.
Throughout FY13 the command will increase the number of Defense Travel System travel technicians to assist reservists with their travel vouchers, according to Michael Burgess, AFRC chief of financial operations at Robins AFB. Placing travel technicians at the unit-level will help speed up the voucher process, Burgess said.
In addition, the Air Force Reserve Order Writing System (AROWS-R) will change some of its business rules used that allow travel orders to import into DTS for travel arrangements and subsequent voucher filing. Once these changes are implemented, known as DTS: Phase II, nearly two-thirds of the AROWS-R orders generated each month will be imported into DTS.
“Right now, at our tenant locations, when a reservist files a voucher it goes from the unit to the base financial services office and then to the Air Force Financial Services Center at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., for computation and payment,” Burgess said. “If there is an error, the travel voucher is sent back to the base for the member to correct the error. The process can be repeated several times before a reservist can settle a travel voucher.” Using DTS will reduce the delay from weeks to days.
The DTS Phase II is already in play at Headquarters AFRC; Barksdale AFB, La.; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.
Beginning in February, the command will lift the AROWS-R business rules for five additional locations and complete the Phase II implementation at all units by mid-spring.
A potential roadblock to the plan is the filling of the 68 newly created travel technician positions at tenant units. By early December, the Reserve had filled 31 positions, according to Burgess.
Burgess said errors occur because the Reserve travel process is more complex than active duty.
“First, reservists have to be brought on orders before they begin travel,” he explained. “They sometimes operate under multiple sets of orders, for example, back-to-back orders, overlapping orders, etc., which can become a minefield of complexity.”
Dedicated travel technicians, who understand Reserve travel peculiarities, will be able to spot issues and aid the reserve traveler in voucher processing in DTS.
“There’s no doubt having dedicated travel technicians at the units will reduce the time it takes for reservists to settle their vouchers,” Burgess said.
The Department of Defense has mandated that all travel be processed electronically through DTS by December 2013.
“Our goal is to have all travel vouchers processed through DTS by the deadline,” Burgess said. “Realistically, there will still be some unique travel situations — PCS vouchers being one type — that don’t work under DTS. We want to make the travel voucher process as easy as we can for our reservists.”