Traveling Blues

This is a bit of inside baseball, so my civilian readers might be a bit befuddled by some of this.

The military routinely uses commercial transportation (that is, airlines) and hotels when people travel to schools, courses, conferences and other events.

Each servicemember has an issued credit card (much like a corporate card) and is reimbursed for expenses related to travel. But unlike most corporate travel, getting reimbursed is always a flaming pain in the butt. ¬†While the reimbursement comes from “the government” the actual travel budget is charged to the servicemembers parent unit. And they always have a very limited budget for this sort of thing. So there’s a lot of pressure to find the cheapest travel.

Unfortunately, the way the system is set up, you can’t just get online and find the cheapest fare. Nooo…… you have to go through the bloated bureaucracy of the Defense Travel System and SATO- the Scheduled Airline Ticket Office.

Via CDR Sal:

This is an amazing email that outlines perfectly the inefficiency of guv’munt. Even in a time of tightening budgets – cost savings are not important to the bureaucracy.

You see – it isn’t the outcome that is important; it is the process.


Effective for travel performed on or after November 1, 2010, travelers are advised not to book lodging accommodations using an online booking agent, such as Expedia, Priceline,, etc. Instead, travelers should reserve their lodging accommodations by utilizing their Contracted Travel Office (CTO) or by contacting the hotel directly.

The Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR) for uniformed members and the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) for Department of Defense civilian employees have both been revised to state, “Despite any savings realized through online booking agents, subject to Service requirements the CTO should be used for lodging arrangements or the traveler should reserve a room directly with the hotel/chain (including the hotel’s online website). Lodging reimbursement is not authorized for hotel lodging obtained through online booking agents unless an itemized receipt from the hotel is provided.”

What are your TDY/TAD travel nightmares/horror stories? And you guys on the civilian side, how stupid is your company about travel expenses?

via CDR Salamander: Why we have bloated budgets ….

6 thoughts on “Traveling Blues”

  1. It used to be worse!
    The army’s first experiment with credit cards was to use AMEX. The one and only time I tried to use it, I was attending Infantry Mortar Leader’s Course at Fort Benning in 1995 and found that the billeting office there didn’t accept AMEX despite that it was the army’s official method of paying for travel-related expenses. AMEX didn’t last too long.

    1. Oh, I remember the joy of AMEX. I ran into the same trouble at Benning with it. And the 30 days to reimbursement that took 3 years. I was out my cash for a long, long time. Now, $10 a night was pretty reasonable price for housing, but losing $300 a month and not getting reimbursed sure put a crimp in my beer budget.

  2. NASA has the same joy. Before AMEX, it was Diner’s Club. Gosh, that was useful. Now it’s a Mastercard. You can buy gas with it, but you can’t buy a cup of coffee inside the gas station (it’s blocked for some reason).
    I bought gift cards from my daughter’s school for the hotel chain I stayed in – they buy the gift cards at discount and sell them at face value and keep the difference. Hotel bill was $336, so I used $300 in the gift cards and put the rest on the credit card. They only wanted to reimburse me the $36, and it took several rounds to get it straightened out.
    Contract air is a PITA, too, where they want to charge you $1,100 for a plane ticket you can get on Expedia for $300. Don’t give me the line that it’s a transferable ticket, because the gov’t travel agency charges extra for every change you make.

  3. When Lockheed Martin was building the Sea Shadow, an inspector told Ben Rich “I don’t care if you made scrap. I want the forms filled out correctly!”

    ‘Cause budgets and reality are for the little people.

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