The Future of PPBE: Part 1 - Agility


The Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution Reform released its final report on March 6, 2024. The final assessment lays the groundwork for a new future of defense resourcing across five key focus areas and 28 individual recommendations. The changes, if implemented, will have a significant impact on those working in defense resourcing, from program managers to budget analysts to leaders.

In this series, we will explore three takeaways underlying the context of the report. One noteworthy change is the proposal of a new name. If accepted, PPBE will be known as the Defense Resourcing System (DRS), which will consolidate the programming and budgeting phases of PPBE into a singular process.

We do not intend these findings to be a recap of the report but instead our analysis of the recommendations, how they all fit together, and expected impact.

Adding agility is the desired outcome of reform

The goal of reform is to add agility to long range planning and, just as importantly, to year of execution funding as well. The report focuses on several ways agility can be delivered. This can begin with early strategy documents like J-Books and move through to moving money around during the year of execution. Based on the report, we believe agility will be introduced in the following ways: a) Empowering decision makers at echelon b) Reducing bureaucratic burden through a common analytics platform c) Increased reliance on real-time data. 

Empowering decision makers at echelon

Most DoD strategy documents already focus on this action item. Driving decision-making down through the ranks will empower the workforce and result in more informed decisions.

The Commission highlights several ways to empower decision makers, such as increasing below-the-threshold reprogramming limits, changing the structure of colors of money, or consolidating items into broader categories known as Major Capability Activity Areas (MCAA).

Driving decision-making across the enterprise has two benefits:  improving long-term outcomes and introducing agility during the year of execution.

Both goals will require that staff have access to more training, better tools, and demand a reduction in their focus on low-value data validation tasks. Success will require change across the four key areas highlighted in the next section. Take note that more autonomy will not come without more auditability. For the system to work, leaders will need a platform which can capture when decisions were made, why they are made, and by whom.

Reducing bureaucratic burden through a common analytics platform

Embedded within various report sections is a desire to update many processes which have not kept up with the times. These solutions take many forms, such as developing secure and unsecured enclaves for data sharing or the consolidation of report requests. As highlighted above, any process removed – which creates review cycles and accountability – will require enhanced transparency and auditability for Congress and DoD leadership.

Congress and the DoD would be well served to identify what information they need, at what level, and create an integrated system across the entire Defense Resourcing System to enable ready access to data, insights, and records to understand what has happened. Arriving at this end state will require significant upfront work to unify a comprehensive yet flexible data model that makes searching, accessing, and correlating data simple.

Increased reliance on real-time data

Data is a strategic asset that, when used appropriately, will make a difference in maintaining American military superiority over China, Russia, and other adversaries. However, real-time data alone is insufficient to better decision-making.

As highlighted in the report, in-person AWGs will continue to be an important part of the decision-making process. While visualizations are useful in these sessions (especially if using real-time data), they do not empower data-driven decisions at the speed of relevance. Instead, the combination of consistent decision criteria, real-time data, and tools to rapidly assess trade spaces and scenario plans will provide the most comprehensive suite of decision tools.

Adding agility to defense resourcing cannot be achieved with a single approach. As highlighted above, agility will be derived from a new system that drives decision-making through an organization backed by a system that makes oversight possible. But technology is just the start of changing how the system works, and the next point highlights the multi-faceted approach necessary to drive transformation.

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