Federal Government Travel

» Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As with any industry in today’s business times, the history of that industry is important to understand the direction it may move in the future.   Federal government travel and understanding the evolution of government travel planning is essential not only for federal travelers but those who plan travel for each specific entity of the federal government.  As we move into the future, all of the aspects of federal travel and the unique needs of travelers and their specific branch of the federal government must be studied, applied and followed accordingly.

Government travel is regulated by numerous laws and regulations.  Understanding the laws and rules that apply to government employee travel and each branch they are employed by is essential to doing business with any government agency.   All travel activities from contracted city-pair airfare to per diem, requires travelers and travel arrangers to comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Defense Acquisition Regulations (DFARS), Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), and Standardized Regulations (DSSR).  It can seem cumbersome trying to understand what laws and rules apply to the traveler, the travel management company, and what specifically applies to a particular branch of government.  It is always best to do research through the SGTP, and the GSA websites.  Both of these resources can answer questions, but also refer any government employee or civilian doing business with the federal government to the specific regulation they may be inquiring about.  Any individual’s best bet is to read and understand the laws and rules that apply to civilian government employees and uniformed active military and the specific branch of government they are employed with, or are doing business with.  These laws are the fundamental foundations to understanding where the government travel industry will head in the future as well as give up to date regulations for all government traveler and travel planning.

Is the future of government travel and travel planning with ETS, Electronic Travel Systems, or the full service TMC, Travel Management Company?  That seems to be the question concerning not only government employees, but the TMCs alike.   ETS, Electronic Travel systems are currently have TMCs embedded or accommodated for each specific branch of the federal government, and the ETS solution such as GovTrip.  What that means is the TMC is still ensuring each reservation gets ticketed and there are no glitches with the reservation. Once a reservation is made through the ETS, it gets electronically sent to the TMC through the GDS, Global Distribution System of their agency.   TMCs run each reservation through their quality control software to ensure the government traveler’s record is free of errors, consistent, and airfare is set for ticketing.  Quality control software internally used by TMCs utilize automated, manual tasks, that take the reservation further than what an ETS can accomplish.  Quality control systems can be modeled around federal per diem rates and other federal lodging requirements to provide a great cost (and time) savings for government travelers.  These unique collaborative suites of quality control file finishing modules works with the GovTrip and other ETS solutions.  Understanding that the TMC has just as much power behind the ticketing a government reservation as the actual ETS booking engine itself, shows that the TMC is needed for self service reservations and full service call centers alike for all government travel.

Other government organizations such as the General Services Administrations, GSA, play a vital role in shaping the government travel industry today and into the future.  The General Services Administration is an independent agency of theUnited Statesgovernment, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies.  The GSA supplies products and communications forU.S.government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost-minimizing policies, including regulation and approving TMCs and policies for Federal Government Travel.  GSA also regulates and publishes FTR Federal Travel Regulations.  Former President Herbert Hoover was asked in 1947 by President Harry Truman to lead a commission to make recommendations to the President and congress on how to improve administrative activities of the federal government. GSA became an independent agency on July 1, 1949.  In 1980 The GSA launched the City-pair program testing 11 city pair contracts for reducing airfare cost to the federal governement.  GSA now administers over 5,000 city pairs contracted airfares for up to 70% savings for allUSfederal travelers.  As part of their effort, GSA maintains the large GSA Schedule, which other agencies can use to buy goods and services, schedule 599 refers to the services GSA administers for the federal government travel .  Specifically if a TMC would like to do business with the federal government, GSA TSS approval is recommended. The GSA Schedule can be thought of as a collection of pre-negotiated contracts. Procurement managers from government agencies can view these agreements and make purchases from the GSA Schedule knowing that all legal obligations have been taken care of by GSA, and TMCs meet all federal requirements.

The variety of TMCs available to the federal government started with Scheduled Airline Ticket Offices, SATO.  Today, although only 37 TMCs are currently GSA approved and TSS, Travel Services Solution certified, deregulation and the fair in competition acts and laws along with thousands of Travel Management Companies benefit the federal government procurement process for travel services.  The Billions spent annually benefit the economy by revenue flowing through, airlines, hotels, car-rental agencies, not to mention the food service industry, restaurants, and entertainment.  Interesting? Who is there to help manage the process from the civilian side of this industry? The TMC.  In partnership with the federal government, with great relations, unwavering application of laws and policies, from communication to accounting for every dollar spent, this partnership is immeasurable and most beneficial to the federal governement as well as the TMC.  TMCs in today’s federal governement travel industry, must not only provide a service for the federal government, but must know the industry, study the ongoing changes, and be able to properly guide all government travelers to be in compliance with their entire travel plans from start to finish.  The TMC and the federal government travelers can look forward to many years in partnership together, managing this robust expense for theUnited States of America.

By:  Scott Carver

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