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Air Force readiness requires stepping away from the spreadsheets

“When you do this with pencils and erasers and those kinds of things, it becomes challenging to really present options and present risk and make arguments for one option over the other.” - Air Force General Glen D. VanHerck

The final article in the Federal News Network series – Modernizing Government Planning – discusses the impact on certain military commands, where program planning and budget execution are offset from their direct authority.

In the interview, Air Force General VanHerck focuses on providing input into the early stages of the POM process as a means to influence the department’s guidance for budgeting. This is an imperative as USNORTHCOM and NORAD rely on this type of advocacy to impact their budgets.

However, to present a compelling case, these departments must be agile in delivering the right information, assess the impact of various funding levels, and provide a variety of options which Congress and other budget approvers can evaluate. Developing an impactful reporting package can be difficult and it is compounded by antiquated technology – as highlighted in the quote above.

While systemic challenges with PPBE abound, the DoD is not improving what it must to make departments more agile and dynamic. A similar construct was highlighted in previous interviews with Juliet Beyler Executive Director U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Douglas Bush assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as the ASA

The three big technology challenges highlighted in this article include:

  1. The need for better data analysis tools. While the teams at NORTHCOM and NORAD have a good handle on data inputs, they require better analytics to analyze the available options beyond charts and graphs in Excel. Advanced capabilities exist in the commercial segment that can quickly meet the needs of budget analyst and leaders looking to improve data analysis and prepare for a future with even more data readily available for quantification.
  2. A platform allowing for scenario planning. One major pain point highlighted in the article is attempting to conduct scenario analysis using what is tantamount to pencil and paper. Not only is this approach laborious but it adds time to review cycles as data must be re-run inherently making organizations less agile and therefore eroding readiness. This doesn’t need to be the case as platforms exist with these capabilities built in to deliver options with just the click of a button.
  3. Software leveraging a consistent value framework. While scenario planning is essential, it must be based off an agreed upon, tested framework. Only if leaders believe the tradeoffs and scenario plans are being devised using a methodology they agree to will the findings be deemed valid and useful. In many instances, best practices from private sector portfolio analysis using value, cost, risk and balance are ideal criteria.
While VanHerck is not as bearish on the PPBE process as some others, there is a recognition that room for improvement exists. However, as highlighted above many pain points can be overcome with better technology. The fact that many DoD employees continue to rely on PowerPoint and Excel is not a result of the PPBE structure but a built-in institutional mindset which needs to change.

As new solutions – such as Decision Lens – introduce more agility across the DoD additional agencies will recognize they need not wait for the PPBE Commission to drive reform – they can improve their process right now, today and deliver a more advanced approach across the entire PPBE lifecycle.

Read the entire article at Federal News Network

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