Department of Homeland Security - Matthew Ruckert
U. S. Coast Guard, Personnel Service Center
Describe some of your responsibilities related to the GSA SmartPay program.
I manage the USCG Travel Charge Card Program, Travel Management Center, and Debit Card Program to ensure over 60,000 travelers have the tools and ability to meet mission requirements anywhere in the world. The Coast Guard Travel Card Program has approximately 40,000 Individually Billed Accounts (IBA) and 5 Centrally Billed Accounts (CBA) with an annual total spend of $90M. I provide program policy, procedures, training, and data system management needed to manage the program and over 500 geographically dispersed travel managers (i.e. Organization Program Coordinators).
How does your agency/organization use the GSA SmartPay program to accomplish its mission?
By pairing the GSA SmartPay program with the GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) 599 2 for Travel Agent Services and the GSA City Pair Program, the Coast Guard is able to provide our travelers with the means (i.e. credit cards (IBA or CBA)) and the ability via the Travel Management Center vendor. The TMC provides travelers access to the GSA City Pair Program flights and leverages the GSA FedRooms Program for lodging requirements. This pairing of the various GSA products help deliver overall savings to the USCG while providing the necessary structure, data systems, and controls needed to protect the taxpayer dollars.
What do you see as the major benefits of the GSA SmartPay program?
The GSA SmartPay program provides a cost effective means to ensure our travelers have the financial means to travel on very short notice to meet the USCG’s unique mission requirements. The GSA SmartPay program provides the organizations with a treasure trove of data that the USCG has been able to leverage for not only internal control improvements, but improved marketing, communications, and just in time training delivery for the new cardholders. The program also provides protections to our cardholders from fraudulent charges and the benefits offered by VISA. In addition, since the card itself does not impact personal credit scores unless the balance goes unpaid and is charged off.
What are three words that you’d use to describe the GSA SmartPay program?
Cost-Effective Solution. Whether it is for purchase, travel or fleet solutions, the GSA SmartPay program balances ease of use with required controls/oversight.
What is the most interesting/important way that you’ve seen the GSA SmartPay program used within your agency/organization? Any special projects/special purchases that you’d like highlight?
As a military organization with a large number of junior personnel fresh out of high school with no credit history, the GSA SmartPay Travel Card program provides these members in many cases with their first credit card. The travel card provides these members with the financial resources to execute world-wide travel, on short notice that in many cases would not be possible without this critical tool. The GSA SmartPay program provides the needed training resources and controls for management to protect these new travelers from getting into too much trouble by identifying potential misuse and delinquency issues early.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer to account holders?
Understand your travel authorizations prior to traveling, use the travel card for those authorized expenses, and then track your travel voucher through the system to ensure you can pay your balance in full on or before the due date.
What’s one fact/piece of information about the GSA SmartPay program that you’d like to share with the general public?
The GSA SmartPay program, while providing the tools needed for USCG personnel to meet mission requirements, also provides many tangible and intangible benefits to the organization and the taxpayer. From a pure cost-to-benefit perspective, most people would see the program’s spend rebates, which more than cover the cost of the personnel salaries needed to manage the program, as the most important factor. But the intangible benefits of providing the program’s structure and data systems needed to provide complete travel support and data to optimize and manage the organization's travel expenses are even more important.