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DoD Eliminating Paper Mileage Search

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 1998 – Thousands of pages of outdated information that compute mileage to pay for cargo and household-goods delivery and temporary duty travel are en route to the trash bin.

In its place will be a quicker, less expensive way of doing business, said Ethel Anderson, project manager of the Military Traffic Management Command-led effort. A pilot program is being conducted at several sites across the nation. Rollout is slated to begin in October.

Called "DTOD," for the Defense Table of Official Distances, the new system is replacing the old Official Table of Distances used to pay travel and transportation allowances. DTOD is also replacing the household good carrier's mileage guide and other devices used to calculate distances for cargo, freight and household-goods movements.

The new automated system helps users find mileage information in a fraction of the time it took before, Anderson said.

Under the current system, transportation and finance offices must trek through 2,352 pages of small print in four road-map-sized books to find how much to pay a moving company or DoD traveler. It's a time-consuming, mistake-prone task that often yields inaccurate data.

These mileage "bibles" haven't been updated since 1982. In some places, bridges have been razed and new ones built, old highways closed and new ones built in different locations. New routes may be longer -- or shorter.

Anderson said the 1996 Defense Authorization Act deleted the requirement for DoD to maintain an official mileage table to pay travel and transportation allowances.

She said then-DoD Comptroller John Hamre, now deputy secretary of defense, tasked the U.S. Transportation Command to find a single provider for distance information to support travel, freight, personal property movements and temporary duty travel within the United States and overseas. The command tasked the Military Traffic Management Command to lead the effort.

"We pulled together a working group in 1996 composed of representatives from the military services, DoD agencies and other government agencies and started looking at the total requirements," Anderson noted.

Besides the transportation and traffic management commands, major players include the Defense Finance and Accounting System, Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency and General Services Administration. Other representatives from major automated systems requiring distance information, such as the Defense Travel System, are also taking part.

Anderson said the working group's mission was to identify functional and technical requirements for "providing a world of dependable, consistent distance information" that will, in part:

o Allow a single, reliable distance information provider to meet DoD needs for travel, freight and household goods.

o Make use of commercially available technology to improve efficiency, lower costs and move to a paperless environment.

o Make distance information readily accessible to all authorized DoD users on the Internet, servers that can interface with specific systems, and on CD-ROMs for individuals who don't have Web access.

o Maintain consistent, up-to-date distance information for major cities, towns and DoD locations worldwide.

o Provide technical and functional support to DTOD users.

Anderson said distance information is critical for DoD and commercial industry. For example, she said, commercial contracts negotiated by the Military Traffic Management Command influence nearly $4 billion worth of commercial transportation services annually. In 1997, the command loaded and discharged 11.5 million tons of cargo. During the same period, personal property shipments totaled about 650,000 household goods shipments and 110,000 vehicle shipments.

"Another thing that doesn't exist today that Dr. Hamre wants is mileage information for overseas areas -- the Pacific and Europe," Anderson said. In the end, a mileage package called PC*MILER was selected as the single provider for distance information in the continental United States, Europe and the Pacific.

The single-provider process will affect how DoD and commercial carriers do business. Anderson pointed out that most carriers are paid based on mileage.

"Ideally, we want everyone, DoD and commercial partners, to have the same source for mileage information, so when bills go to finance for payment, it would ensure what the carrier and DoD user reports as the mileage is the mileage of record," she said. "Policy will not mandate the carrier industry use our system to do business with DoD. However, the Defense Table of Official Distances and PC*Miler will be the sources used for travel, transportation payment and audit purposes."

"We're working with the American Trucking Association, American Moving and Storage Association and other carrier associations," Anderson said. "Interest in our system is emerging from the carrier industry and we continue to address their concerns. Other government agencies are also interested in what we're doing. We've received many positive comments about it."

The new distance information also benefits service members who elect to move themselves, Anderson noted. "We want to ensure service members are being paid for the right mileage from the single source so there won't be any disputes. Service members will be able to go to their personal property office and find out how much they will be paid to make their own move."

Knowing the distance and routes taken by carriers and service members is an important part of making the system work and helps support budget forecasting, she noted.

"The shortest route may not be the most practical route for personnel travel," Anderson said. "Shortest mileage means getting there by the most direct route," she said. "Practical mileage means not going the quickest route, but going with what's practical-- for instance, taking a longer route that doesn't have heavy tolls. The travel community will use practical distance calculations for travel reimbursement."

When the system is in place, DoD travel specialists will have fast access to mileage information on the Internet. "They'll be able to key in their password, city, state and zip code and get the information they need," Anderson said. "Those handling freight and household goods will be able to capture mileage from installation to installation, such as from Fort Lewis, Wash., to Fort Bragg, N.C." CD-ROMs will be available for users with no Web access.

"And there's help for users who can't determine the correct spellings for certain locations," Anderson said. "For example, a user may type in "FT, GA," hit enter, and all the Army forts in Georgia will appear."

More information about the new mileage system is available at http://www.dtod.com.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAmy Hopfe, left, a former project officer for the Defense Table of Official Distances project, and Ethel Anderson, project director at the Military Traffic Management Command, display two of the four large road-map- sized books currently used to find mileage for temporary duty travel and household goods transportation payments. A new system starts in October that replaces these books. Rudi Williams  
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