The General Services Administration thinks it can pare down the $15 billion the government spends annually on travel services but it needs better data first, according to contracting documents.
Information on government travel costs is currently dispersed among multiple charge card databases, airfare and hotel booking systems and conference registries.
GSA has been trying to make this mass of data more comprehensible since 2006, including by developing the governmentwide travel data service GSA Travel MIS. Government travel is still dogged by inefficiencies, though, and the people scheduling that travel often have poor insight into the cheapest flight, hotel and mileage options and the best way to maximize worker productivity during travel, according to the request for information initially posted in mid-August.
“Stakeholders tasked with the various portions of the travel management function are often forced to utilize incomplete and non-standardized datasets through what are generally unreliable and uncalibrated tools,” GSA said.
The agency is asking industry for insight about how it can pool all its travel information into a standardized database. The plan is for agencies to query that database to figure out the best government-negotiated rates for certain trips, identify where money is being spent inefficiently and point out wasteful spending by traveling employees.
GSA may use that information to develop one or more contract solicitations for new travel data management tools, the agency said.
GSA is especially interested in trimming airfare, hotel and rental car costs but may request information about train, bus and boat travel too, the agency said.
Standardized travel data may also be used to inform decision making about other government priorities, GSA said, such as reducing the government’s carbon footprint and better responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.