Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE): What to Know

What is PPBE?

The Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process serves as the Department of Defense's (DoD) internal methodology for allocating resources to achieve its mission objectives. It results in the Defense budget request, which is included in the President's Budget (PB) submitted to Congress by the first Monday in February for the upcoming fiscal year, starting on October 1 of the same calendar year. The ultimate goal of the PPBE process is to provide DoD components and Combatant Commanders (COCOMs) with the best possible mix of forces, equipment, and support within the established fiscal constraints.

The primary purpose of the PPBE process is to allocate resources effectively within the DoD. Within the acquisition community, program managers and their teams should be aware of the nature and timing of each event in the PPBE process, as they may be required to provide crucial information that influences program funding and success. While the acquisition process is driven by specific events, the PPBE process follows a calendar-based schedule, which can lead to timing challenges for the acquisition community.

The PPBE process is one of three key processes (Acquisition, Requirements, and Funding) that support the Defense Acquisition System. Its primary focus is on Financial Management and resource allocation for current and future DoD acquisition programs. The process is established by the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) based on priorities and goals outlined in DoD Directive 7045.14, known as the "Program Planning Budget & Execution (PPBE)" Process.

What are the 4 phases of the PPBE process cycle?

Planning: the first stage of PPBE

The Planning Phase in the PPBE Process involves defining and exploring various strategic alternatives, analyzing changing conditions and trends, evaluating threats, technology, and economic factors. It aims to comprehend both the impact of change and the long-term consequences of current decisions. This phase identifies and assesses the future needs of the Department of Defense (DoD) over the next 5, 10, and 20+ years based on strategic guidance.

The Planning Phase is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff, working in coordination with DoD components. It commences with a resource-informed articulation of national defense policies and culminates in the creation of a military strategy known as the Defense/Joint Planning Guidance (DPG). The DPG serves as the guiding document for the entire planning process. It provides fiscally constrained guidance and priorities for military forces, modernization, readiness, sustainability, business processes, and infrastructure activities. Moreover, the DPG acts as a bridge between the planning and programming phases, offering guidance to DoD Components (military departments and defense agencies) for the development of their program proposals known as the Program Objective Memorandum (POM).

The Planning Phase is the initial step in the DoD's resource allocation process, and it involves parallel efforts by the civilian side of OSD (USD Policy) and the military side (led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS] with participation from the Services and COCOMs). While USD (Policy) officially leads this phase of PPBE, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) plays a significant role. The Planning Phase commences after the issuance of the National Security Strategy (NSS) by the National Security Council. The NSS outlines specific national-level strategic outcomes, which are further refined in the SECDEF's Defense Strategy Guidance (DSG) and the CJCS's National Military Strategy (NMS).

The first task in the Planning Phase is a review of all previous strategic guidance, along with the most recent NSS. This review considers changes in required capabilities, military strategy, and policy as outlined in the DSG issued by the SECDEF, and the NMS issued by the CJCS. The NMS provides strategic direction on how the Joint Force should align military ends, ways, means, and risks with the goals established in the DSG. Both the DSG and NMS must align with the goals and objectives of the national-level NSS.

Additionally, the Planning Phase involves a review and analysis of the latest OSD-developed Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which was renamed the Defense Strategy Review (DSR) in 2015. The DSR presents the results of a comprehensive examination of potential threats, strategy, force structure, readiness posture, modernization programs, infrastructure, and information operations and intelligence. All of these documents contribute to strategy-based planning and broad programming advice for the preparation of the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG). The DPG outlines a comprehensive long-term view of the security environment and shapes the investment blueprint for the five fiscal years covered by the next POM, which is developed by the Military Departments and Defense Agencies. The final strategy document resulting from the Planning Phase was previously known as the Defense Planning and Programming Guidance (DPPG), but in 2012, it was renamed the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG).


The Programming Phase within the PPBE process involves defining and analyzing various force structures, weapon systems, and support systems, along with their resource implications over multiple years. This phase focuses on balancing and integrating resources among different programs based on established priorities.

The Programming Phase commences with each DoD Component developing a Program Objective Memorandum (POM) and Budget Estimate Submission (BES). These efforts aim to create a well-balanced set of programs that align with the guidance and priorities outlined in the Defense Planning/Programming Guidance while adhering to fiscal constraints. The POM provides a detailed description of the proposed programs, including a time-phased allocation of resources (forces, funding, and manpower) projected six years into the future. Additionally, DoD Components may highlight important programs that are not fully funded (or not funded at all) and assess the associated risks.

Subsequently, senior leadership in OSD and the Joint Staff review each POM to integrate the individual DoD Component plans into a coherent defense program. During this review, issues may be raised, funding shortfalls addressed, and alternatives proposed with marginal adjustments to resources. Unresolved matters are elevated to the Secretary for decision-making, and the resulting choices are documented in Resource Management Decisions (RMDs).

The main purpose of the Programming Phase is to allocate resources in support of the roles and missions of the Military Departments (e.g., Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines) and Defense Agencies. This phase translates previous planning decisions and guidance from documents like the DPG and congressional directives into detailed allocations of resources over a five-year time frame. These allocations include forces, personnel, and funds, providing the SECDEF and the President with insights into the future defense posture based on present-day decisions.

The OSD Director, CAPE, assumes overall coordination responsibility for the Programming Phase and is considered the official lead during this stage of PPBE. The Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) is updated by DCAPE upon submission of the POMs, and it undergoes a second update during the PPBE cycle when the Defense budget is submitted to OMB for incorporation into the President's Budget.

Between 2001 and 2015, Components conducted a combined Programming/Budgeting phase, where both sets of documentation and submissions were prepared and decided upon concurrently to ensure coordination. However, in late December 2014, the PPBE process was reset to return to separate POM and BES submissions, analyses, and decisions. Although there might be some overlap in the final decision-making processes following the OSD analysis of the five-year POM and the one-year BES, separate decisions (Resource Management Decisions (RMDs)) impacting programmatic and budgetary submissions were expected. In 2016, they reverted back to separate decision documents for the POM and BES processes known as Program Decision Memorandums (PDMs) and Program Budget Decisions (PBDs).

How to Get to Better Reporting



On December 11, 2014, the Deputy Secretary of Defense (DEPSECDEF) signed a memorandum titled "Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution 'Re-set'," announcing a decision for the Department of Defense (DoD) to adopt a more sequential budget development process starting with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget build. This change aimed to improve alignment between the Department's programs, budgets, strategy, and guidance, leading to more robust and defensible budget submissions to Congress. The FY 2017 budget build would take place in the calendar year 2015, requiring each responsible DoD Component to develop separate Program Objective Memorandums (POM) and Budget Estimate Submissions (BES) during that year.

The Budgeting Phase of the PPBE Process involves formulating, justifying, executing, and controlling an organization's or program's budget. It primarily focuses on scrutinizing the first one or two years of a program's budget to ensure efficient resource utilization and to create a DoD budget request that can withstand scrutiny before Congress. The budget represents a comprehensive financial plan encompassing federal receipts and expenditures.

The Budgeting Phase aims to convince OSD and Congress to allocate the necessary resources and then ensures that these resources are spent in accordance with the law. This phase runs concurrently with the programming phase, with each DoD Component submitting its proposed budget estimate alongside its POM. The budget translates the programmatic view into the format of the congressional appropriation structure, accompanied by detailed budget justification documents. Although the budget projects resources only two years into the future, it provides more financial details than the POM.

After submission, budget estimates undergo review by analysts from the office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Their review ensures that programs are funded in accordance with current financial policies and are reasonably priced. The review also confirms that the budget documentation adequately justifies the programs presented to Congress.

Typically, the analysts present written questions to the DoD Components in advance of formal hearings, where they review and discuss the budget details. Following the hearings, each analyst prepares a decision document known as a Resource Management Decision (RMD) concerning the programs or appropriations under their area of responsibility.

The RMD proposes financial adjustments to address any issues or problems identified during the budget hearings. The RMDs are then reviewed and forwarded to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for decisions. The resulting decisions lead to an updated budget submission provided to the OMB. Subsequently, the overall DoD budget is included as part of the President's Budget Request to Congress.


Budget Execution or Execution Review consists of two interrelated aspects. The first aspect involves evaluating how well the currently available appropriations are being utilized and spent, measuring the percentage of appropriated funds obligated and expended in comparison to the goals set by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for the specific appropriations. While this assessment is important in various ways, the second aspect holds equal or even greater significance. It entails comparing the accomplishments of the Department of Defense (DoD) as stated in its appropriations with the actual outcomes achieved. In other words, it assesses whether the desired results from the allocated funds have been realized. When existing program performance goals are not being met, the execution review may lead to recommendations for adjusting resources or restructuring programs to attain the desired objectives. This analysis aids in the preparation of the Annual Performance Report (APR), which is mandated by the Government Performance Results Act (GPRA) for all major Executive Branch agencies.

The Execution Phase represents the practical application of the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Process. The execution review occurs concurrently with program and budget reviews and provides valuable feedback to senior leadership regarding the effectiveness of current and past resource allocations. Over time, metrics are developed to support the execution review, measuring the actual output against planned performance for defense programs. If the performance goals of existing programs are not being met, the execution review may suggest resource adjustments or program restructuring to achieve the desired performance targets.

PPBE Calendar 2023

Who are the Key Players in the PPBE Process?

  • USD for Research and Engineering (R&E) As the Department of Defense DOD chief technology officer, this role’s responsibility is to advance technology and innovation for DOD and the military. During the PPBE process they must advise the SECDEF on all DOD research, engineering, and technology development activities and programs.
  • USD for Acquisition and Sustainment (A&S) is responsible for determining all DOD elements that relate to acquisition including: the system’s design, development, production, sustainment, and the acquisition of goods and services.
  • USD for Personnel and Readiness (P&R) is responsible for advising on everything concerning the total force including active and reserve military, civilian, and contract support including addressing planning, requirements, readiness, workforce mix and balance, applicable personnel policies, and healthcare issues.
  • Deputy Chief Management Officer (CMO) helps organize the department’s business operations and is responsible for giving admin and managerial support to senior governance bodies. 
  • USD(I&S) - Intelligence and Security is responsible for advising on everything related to intelligence, counterintelligence, security, sensitive activities etc. The USD(I&S) also plays a key role in the intelligence budget process (IPPBE).
  • DOD Chief Information Officer (CIO) is responsible for advising on major cyber investments, information technology (IT) resource allocations, and investment decisions. This includes providing recommendations on whether to continue, change or end IT investments.  

POM Process Workflow

Inherent Challenges in the PPBE Process

Doing things the "right" way

There are major decisions to make on an annual basis regarding the allocation of billions of Federal dollars and the PPBE process is in place to manage this. However, with the broad array of national security challenges today, constrained budgets, and the uncertainty that comes with Continuing Resolutions (CR), there is more that could be done. 

So much focus is placed on completing projects on budget and on schedule, but sometimes lost is determining whether the projects being done best align to the long-term mission objectives. To address this challenge’s technical and organizational aspects art and science must be leveraged. 

Aligning Interests

It is extremely difficult to collectively, across any enterprise, agree on priorities that get beyond the needs of individual, siloed organizations. Ultimately, the decision process must start with aligning interests across the enterprise. This is already a difficult process, but it gets even harder to do as you progress up the organizational hierarchy and more senior officials are advocating, often in an entrenched manner, for their specific programs. This is of course a natural byproduct of the massive bureaucracy that exists. However, when interests are aligned well then it allows major investments to become synchronized in concept, timing, and execution. 

Dynamic and Time-Consuming

In addition to the challenge of making enterprise-focused decisions, the dynamic nature of these processes throughout a given decision cycle is an important variable. During each phase of the PPBE process, at varying levels of detail as each cycle progresses, decisions are made, changed, and changed again as organizations make (and modify) assumptions, and react to shifting guidance from higher-echelon organizations. Organizations at all levels struggle with the reaction time and “employee churn” required during these periods. Often the ratio of time spent reacting to changes in leadership guidance is on the order of 100:1, i.e., for a one-hour update to the decision-maker, the staff will spend 100 hours of prep work like updating spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations until the message clearly conveys the proposed decision options. Underpinning this frustration are the long hours collecting new data, aggregating into common formats, getting updated proposals from subordinate organizations, synchronizing and re-messaging. 

Challenges Today

Today, the challenges include budget constraints and ongoing competition among organizations to shape the way that our country addresses varying threats to our national security. Programs may lose funding as DoD attempts to balance competing priorities. Failure to provide detailed justification for funding may cause decision-makers to misjudge the importance of a program and reduce or eliminate its funds. In addition, the uncertainty created by Continuing Resolutions makes it very difficult for the Defense Department to plan and budget effectively. 

Transitioning to the Opportunity and Change Management

Any adjustments to existing processes and decision-making cycles requires organizations to change. Volumes have been written regarding the methods of addressing organizational change. Change management intimidates organizations collectively and people individually. It connotes a major effort, with teams of consultants on the ground doing surveys, creating 80-slide PowerPoint presentations and often complex recommendations.  

However, the experience and expertise to help drive an enterprise view already exists in your organization. To foster positive change, it is important that organizations are transparent in their process changes and that all changes are made iteratively, and gradually. The change process can be made smoother with good input from managers ultimately responsible for interpreting leaders’ guidance and priorities. 

Tools and Process

With everything necessary to help the process become more dynamic, it can seem that change in the PPBE process is a daunting task. However, there are tools available that can help you automate, find new ways to collaborate and new ways to organize the most important ideas of the organization in a clearly defined manner.  

PPBE Modernization: How Decision Lens Can Help

At Decision Lens, we have been working with Federal customers on these challenges for over 15 years, and their continued feedback inspires each evolution of our product. From the early days, we have provided a unique capability to enable large organizations to develop a clear organizing construct for their decision-making processes, and to get leaders and subject matter experts to offer their judgments on the fundamental elements of the decision.  Decision Lens has capabilities to enable organizations to balance their resources (dollars, people) within their most difficult investment decisions.  

Rigor and Credibility

Rigor and Credibility in POMDecision Lens is designed to add rigor and credibility to any PPBE decision-making. By scoring different alternatives by how they align with various priorities, Decision Lens can be used to communicate how well those alternatives match strategic goals and help illuminate how best to allocate funding in order to get the most value per dollar. Decision Lens also can help with deciding how much to invest and when across large numbers of programs, offices, and funding pools, to help identify which tradeoffs to make.  

Repeatability and Efficiency

Repeatability and Efficiency in PPBEPPBE decisions are often made through mediums like spreadsheets, which are difficult to collaborate on, aggregate, or even just keep updated in the most basic ways. This makes them hard to reuse and incredibly inefficient. Decision Lens brings clarity to this otherwise frustrating process. By giving definition to the process, and including elements of collaboration and discussion, as well as the analytic side of decision making, Decision Lens helps one make the best decision quickly in a way that inspires confidence in the results. Decision Lens portfolios can also be reused and modified year after year to capture what worked before, yet be flexible enough to be updated with new information. 

Traceability and Transparency

Dashboard Traceability and Transparency for PPBE ProcessDecision Lens shows which alternatives best align with what priorities, and why those priorities are weighted the way that they are. The reasoning behind every decision is incredibly clear, making choices easy to both understand and justify. The collaborative and transparent process reduces risk, allowing for data-driven decisions that can be made with confidence and clarity. It also makes justifying choices easy by making clear the benefits of the chosen alternatives. 

Want to learn more about how Decision Lens can help your PPBE process? Request a Demo today! 

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