DFAS Supports Army Olympians through Travel Pay Automation Project

By Tony Hardman, DFAS Corporate Communications

Texarkana, Texas, February 1, 2022 – The Winter Olympics will soon kickoff in Beijing, with 223 athletes representing the United States. Among them are several Army Soldier-Athletes who will be competing in events ranging from bobsled to luge to skiing and more.

Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will proudly support these world-class athletes through its Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) Travel Pay office mission. The NAF office, located in Texarkana, Texas, is responsible for making payments for Army Morale and Welfare Recreation (MWR) program travel, including Olympic Games.    

This mission demonstrates how DFAS goes far beyond just paying the military, retirees and civilians. Focused on providing excellent customer service, the NAF Travel Pay office recently implemented automation to ensure that these important athletes can focus on competing without worrying about when they will be paid.

Before May of 2020, processing NAF travel pay was a manual process mired in mountains of paperwork.

“If we got in 100 claims a day, those claims are usually a min of 7-10 pages each, so you’re talking about stacks and stacks of paper,” said Sondra Rust, analyst and project manager for DFAS Texarkana’s automation project.

Not only was the paperwork daunting, but also the process from a claim coming in to being paid and logged in the system for tax purposes was exhaustive. After claims arrived, each one was printed and date-stamped in the mailroom. Then, the claims went into a bin for the travel clerks to pick up. After that, they were physically transferred, multiple times, between several different departments. This created multiple opportunities for paperwork to be lost or misplaced.

“We worked in a locked environment, but the biggest risk was that there was no document accountability. So, if paperwork got misplaced or lost there was no way to know,” said Rust.

Luckily, in 2019, Texarkana realized it was time for a change, and Rust helped bring together experts from across DFAS to review several different manual processes and give recommendations on what could be automated.

“We learned how to properly evaluate processes and change the mindset of, ‘that is how we have always done it,’” said Rust. “We began creating a climate that believes we can make positive automations with successful outcomes.”

Through this NAF Automation Summit, led with the help of their Enterprise Project Solutions (EPS) partner Jonathan Pittman, DFAS Texarkana developed a digital workflow solution for the problem.

The automation was achieved by creating a script, which funnels all incoming travel claims to a shared drive. The travel clerks now retrieve the claims from that drive and upload them to SharePoint. From there they can process the claims, and the transfer between different departments now happens digitally.

From a customer standpoint, this creates a huge benefit. Call volume about missing claims is down significantly, and if a customer does question where their payment is, the NAF Travel Pay office can see exactly where in the process the claim sits. Additionally, they are easily able to process the payment within a five-day window of time.

DFAS Texarkana also reaped several benefits from this automation program. They now have real-time reporting of claim accountability and visibility. Automating the manual process also made it possible for employees to telework during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, they saved taxpayers $56,000 on document management and labor costs.

The NAF Travel Pay automation project serves as a shining example of how government offices can better serve their customers and streamline tedious workflows. Thanks to the success of this project, our amazing Soldier-Athletes can keep their head in the game and bring home gold.

To learn more about Army Olympians, visit the Army World Class Athlete Program site.