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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Virginia for his comments.

This amendment does not eliminate DTS. It says that instead of continuing to pay $40 or $50 million a year for the 5.6 million travelers who travel, we will pay a fee based on DTS's operations. The Federal Government doesn't own this program. In fact, anybody who looks at the development of this program will say it is way too expensive to have been accomplished in the way it was accomplished. That is another issue. That is contracting within the DOD, and there are problems with that.

I remind the most distinguished Senator from Virginia, this doesn't eliminate DTS. It allows it to continue to function. But what it says is we are not going to continue to pay money for a program we don't own, and we will start paying it on a per-travel basis.

What are the facts around it? Three hundred and seventy-five thousand out of 5.6 million travel vouchers last year went through the DTS system. That is $1,500 per episode, not including the travel. So what we actually have is a system way more expensive than any system that has been developed in the private sector.

I am not against using the DTS system. I am all for giving it a chance to save us money. We have invested in it. What this amendment says is that we don't eliminate DTS; we just start paying on a per-travel basis and a per-utilization basis. That way, we don't continue to spend $50 million a year for a program we don't own. We should own it for what we pay for it, and there shouldn't be any cost.

I would be happy to modify my amendment to what would meet with the needs of the Senator from Virginia, but I don't believe we should continue to spend, in the contracting sequence this has gone through, the same amount of money. If we allow DTS to continue to be out there and utilize the reporting capability of it but pay it on a per-ticket use rather than a blank check for a contract, the taxpayer will get much more benefit from it. If it performs, the contractor will make more money. If it doesn't perform, we will save a ton of money for the country. That is the purpose of the amendment.

Mr. STEVENS. Will the Senator yield for a moment?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma has the floor.

Mr. COBURN. I am happy to yield.

Mr. STEVENS. We entered a time limit to have this vote occur at 12. In view of the exchange that is going on--and another Senator also wants to talk--I ask unanimous consent that the vote take place at 12:10 and the time between now and then be divided between Senator Coburn and anyone who wishes to speak on this amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I must say, I am impressed with the thoroughness with which our colleague has researched this issue and the fervor with which he speaks. But I pose this question: The Department of Defense estimates it will cause a 3-year delay and cost some $65 million to change the contract structure. I reiterate my strong opposition to the amendment because I don't think the Department has had the time operating DTS to adequately prove the principles and the goals they wished to achieve.

I recognize other colleagues wish to speak. I thank my colleague for the opportunity to have a colloquy.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, 3 more years? We have spent 7 years and $500 million on this system. That is a half a billion dollars. That is $2 for every man, woman, and child in this country for a travel system that you could have bought off the shelf for $150 million in 2 or 3 years. The contracting issue is a different issue. If it is going to take 3 more years at $50 million a year, that means we are going to be at $650 million for this travel system. That is unacceptable. I believe we ought to say perform or don't perform and put it at a per-unit cost. Why is it that only 370,000 out of 5.6 million travel episodes were used on this system at the end of 7 years?

We have a structural problem in contracting through the Defense Department, as well as many other departments in our Government. What started out to be a $60 million project is now going to end up being $650 million. It is the same issue we face with FEMA today in terms of being efficient.

I ask my colleagues to think about how this will still continue if we do it on a per-travel basis. First, it will increase the stimulus to get the job done and completed because there will be more revenue, the more people who use it. Two, it will limit the total amount of money the taxpayers are going to end up having to pay for this system. Three, it will send a message to the contract officers at the Pentagon that creep in terms of contracting is not acceptable. There are some real questions on whether this process violated the contracting laws at the Pentagon. I assure my fellow Senators, through the Federal Financial Oversight Committee, if this continues, we are going to have some hearings to look at the issue of violation of the contracting laws at the Pentagon. We should not have to do that.

Let's limit the exposure of the American people to the cost. I am not upset at the contractor who is doing this. The problem is, it is a big task, but it has cost way too much. Let's provide some stimulus to finish the job and make sure the job is done well rather than continue to throw money at it.

With that, I yield the floor at this time.


Mr. COBURN. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. ALLEN. Yes, I yield to the Senator from Oklahoma.

Mr. COBURN. I don't have any problems in putting a lid on this contract, but let's have a little history. The reason the judge could not find a violation in the Competition in Contracting Act was because the Pentagon did not own the software. By design, they cannot have it if they do not own it.

It was interesting, before the hearing last week, the contractor offered to give the property rights to the Pentagon. In the testimony last week, it was noted that DTS performs less effectively than almost every other civilian e-travel system.

We are 7 years into it. We are going to spend another $150 million. Also, in the history of the contract, this is another no-bid contract that I know Senator Levin is very interested in. It is a cost plus--$43.7 million in the first year, that was not in the contract, and we went on and paid it for anyway.

Based on what is happening with the contracting and how we are getting around the Competition in Contracting Act, I believe we need some real sunshine on this.

The fact is, we are going to spend another $150 million. If the Defense Department would guarantee me that we are not going to spend more than another $100 million to get a travel system that we own, not licensed, but we own, since we are going to pay $650 million for something that should have cost $150 million, then I would be happy to withdraw this amendment. But you cannot get an assurance out of the Pentagon what the cost is going to be because there is not any end in sight in the cost.

We don't own it. They have offered to because of that, but once the Pentagon owns the contract and the rights to this, then the Competition in Contracting Act goes into force, and then there is a basis for the violation.

So the reason the judge ruled the way he ruled was because we did not have ownership to the property. So, therefore, there was no basis for the claim. I understand that, but that is the reason that was not given to the Pentagon, that the Competition in Contracting Act could not be enforced.

I am happy to drop this issue if somebody will stand up and say there is a limit to how much we are going to spend. We have already spent four times what the public should have spent on any system. No private business would have spent this amount of money for this system. Nobody would have.

We ought to look at it very hard. Give me the assurance that there is an end to this and that it is more efficient than anything we could have done otherwise, and I will drop my look at it.

I believe the way to stimulate responsibility in this contract is to put it on a per-issue basis now to make it work.

I yield the floor.

Mr. ALLEN. Mr. President, I reclaim my time and then I will yield. I also share with my colleagues that the judge who reviewed this case did not find a violation, for whatever technical reasons Senator Coburn may say, but the adjudication was there is no violation. The judge also said that to start over would be a mistake.

I yield the floor.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, are we going to have a judge decide on the basis of economics whether we start over? What does that have to do with adjudication? He is making an economic decision for us. That is our job. That is not the judge's job. It doesn't matter whether he says it will be more expensive; that is not his role. That is part of our problem in the judiciary today. That is not his role. That is our role.

I reserve the remainder of my time.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Michigan for his comments. This does not go back to ground zero. This leaves the DTS system intact. What it says is we are going to pay a fee for every transaction you do. We have spent $500 million on this and, as the Senator from Virginia said, we are up to $600,000 out of the 3.6 million transactions.

I can think of no better incentive to have the bugs worked out of it by the contractor than to get more of the 3.6 million transactions. It does not eliminate this. It does not take us back to ground zero. It leaves DTS intact. It says the way we are going to pay for it, from now on, is on a per-transaction basis, rather than a fixed amount or $50 million plus cost that is going to run, which we see now is at least 3 years, at least another $150 million.

We have 3.6 million transactions per year that are going to go through there. It does not do what the Senator claims. It does not eliminate DTS. It does not cause any change in the implementation of the program, other than pay for it on a per-transaction basis. The taxpayers ought to be willing to say: Hey, if it is going to work, it is going to work, and we will pay for it as it works now. We have spent half a billion dollars.

I reserve my time.


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will speak for a short time and then give my colleague from Minnesota a chance to finish, even though he opposes my amendment.

The Pentagon has the ability to set that transaction fee on a per basis. They will be able to still fund it. If there ends up being a million people this next year and they charge $30 per fund, they will get $30 million out of it.

The point is, the Pentagon has the flexibility to do it that way.

I yield the remainder of my time to the Senator from Minnesota.

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