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Ensuring Readiness: Modernizing the PPBE Process

John Saaty

April 07, 2021

Ensuring Readiness: Modernizing the PPBE Process-featured-image
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    Supporting Financial Management in DoD

    For the past several years there has been a big focus on readiness in the Department of Defense (DoD), but much of the discussion focuses on weapons systems; how to organize and deploy more rapidly; and in “tip of the spear” capabilities out in the field. Though it is equally important, the ecosystem of technologies and processes that support the warfighter, from logistics to data management, and even budgeting has received far less focus. The way that business is being managed needs to be as adaptable and rapidly moving as what is being deployed out in the field.  

    A recent article from the Hudson Institute entitled, "Competing in Time: Ensuring Capability Advantage and Mission Success through Adaptable Resource Allocation”, provides great insight on the importance of adaptable resource allocation in DoD. 

    20th Century Process Against 21st Century Threats

    The DoD budgeting process has been nearly untouched since 1961, and with respect to readiness it may actually have ceded progress. At that time, our nation mostly faced symmetric threats where the knowledge of the threat and the extended ramp-up time to address it would be predictable. We knew where our enemies were and could focus our forces in those directions. This made the cost of inaction relatively low because our war machine had the luxury of time to wind itself up. Inevitably the focus of the military-industrial complex was directed towards perfecting pre-existing processes, and no stone was left unturned, including the budgeting process.  Layers of review and workflow were put in place and were designed around vetting out risk and introducing industrial efficiency with a “clean, linear process” that traversed numerous review and approval steps.

    Then change happened. Over the past twenty years, our threats have become asymmetric in nature, requiring us to deploy extremely rapidly to address fires as they pop up. We have had to be ready to face any threat at any time from any source. The need to modernize the budgeting process is not just because it is 60 years old. There is a complete disconnect when it comes to supporting the deployment of resources. As one Chief of Staff told me, “I can guarantee one thing – if the funds aren’t moved to support the deployment, there is not going to be any deployment.” 

    With the PPBE process, if the money doesn’t move then the work is not happening. However, the process engenders risk by encoding divisions between research, production, and operations activities in terms of feedback and development. These silos made sense in a time when the process was simpler and work could be done in a linear fashion, but in the modern era, so many of these processes need to occur concurrently.

    Technology and the quickening pace of the world has changed the way we need to operate. The PPBE process was not designed to work this way.

    How can we Ensure Readiness?

    Proper deployment of resources for real readiness depends on a nimble, dynamic, adaptable backend.

    Integrated planning capabilities need to be instated in the budgeting process to bring different areas together; not just within a silo, but across organizational competencies. 

    Readiness depends on transforming the current process, which has increasing delays at every measured time segment. Delays before production can start. Delays before deployment starts. We need to make these changes to stay competitive in the global market. For example, Chinese weapons developments indicate much more iterative development. They don’t encumber themselves with the back and forth that we've built into the system.

    During times of war, such as World War I and World War II we understood our threats and had capabilities for instant deployment. Now we need to be ready for a new era, where we must always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If we leave the system as is and focus on processes for peace time, then we won’t be prepared for modern warfare.

    Decision Lens supports the backend processes that can enable DoD to modernize and transform the PPBE process. It reduces the back and forth that has been built into PPBE and automates many of the encumbered parts of the budgeting process. From aggregated data intake and ranking to forecasting potential tradeoffs, this FedRAMP certified, collaborative platform provides a single source of truth for data across silos, allowing different parts of the backend to work concurrently.

    Learn more about our Financial Management capabilities and how we are helping the DoD to achieve readiness here. 

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