This article is part of a series that explores the critical components of a next-generation defense budget system designed to tackle the challenges currently plaguing our existing system. Our objective is to identify the key elements required to create a more efficient, data-driven, and mission-aligned budgeting process for the Department of Defense, leveraging the power of Decision Lens.
At present, the defense budget system struggles to maintain strategic alignment, often directing resources towards lower-priority or less mission-critical investments. While the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process was originally designed to bridge the gap between strategy and execution, it now inadvertently perpetuates a disconnect, hindering our ability to execute strategically. As global expectations for the United States continue to rise, it is imperative that we prioritize cutting-edge programs and deliver advanced capabilities to our warfighters to maintain a competitive advantage over near-peer adversaries.
A Three-Pronged Approach to Mission Alignment
To attain mission alignment and make informed resource decisions, we must simultaneously consider three distinct time horizons: short-term, medium-term, and long-term. These plans should strive to optimize mission investment while continually informing one another, supported by cutting edge technology.
- Short-term readiness: To restore readiness, we need to link year-of-execution funding to specific readiness objectives and remain cognizant of the impacts of any changes. Every decision should have a clear consequence and a contingency plan to replace diverted readiness funds in the current or future years. For example, if funding is reallocated from a maintenance program, a plan must be in place to address any potential maintenance shortfalls. Having real-time data analysis on spending and ongoing prioritization to help identify the optimal resourcing will foster mission success.
- Medium-term modernization: The DoD must determine how to modernize its operations and reduce the associated costs. This requires fiscal discipline, a well-defined strategy, and tools to assess the impact of reallocating funds from modernization accounts on mission objectives. For instance, prioritizing investments in artificial intelligence and autonomous systems could lead to significant cost savings and enhanced capabilities in the medium term. With the right technology, financial executives can leverage a framework to prioritize future spending, de-bottleneck resources intelligently, and collaborate across teams to map requirements to goals.
- Long-range force strength: To make informed policy decisions, financial executives across all levels and units need greater input and engagement. They should understand the long-term mission, how investments align with it, and have a feedback loop to base decisions upon. This may involve incorporating input from various stakeholders, such as warfighters and intelligence analysts, to assess the long-term implications of investment decisions. Decision Lens supports adjustable time horizons for planning over 10+ years and facilitates a feedback loop to match planning with execution.
The Path Forward
To achieve mission alignment, we need better tools that can effectively correlate these time horizons and enable more informed decision-making. The Army has publicly acknowledged this strategy-to-resource mismatch and recognizes the need for a different approach moving forward.
One of the most significant obstacles to achieving strategic alignment is the lack of interconnected systems, an over-reliance on manual tasks that hinder detailed analysis, and limited access to real-time data during the decision-making process. A next-generation solution, such as Decision Lens, must ensure data is interoperable and widely accessible, utilize automation to eliminate low-value manual tasks, and connect to a central data repository as a single source of truth for decision-makers.
With solutions like Decision Lens, the DoD can facilitate better analysis, proactive scenario planning, and a collaborative environment across each time horizon. This will allow comptrollers, financial managers, and planners to tie investment decisions to the mission with precision and strategic intelligence. A next-generation defense budget system will empower decision-makers with real-time data, enabling them to make mission-aligned decisions more effectively.
For example, Decision Lens can be used to simulate various budget scenarios, allowing financial executives to assess the implications of different investment strategies on short-term readiness, medium-term modernization, and long-range force strength. This will enable them to make well-informed decisions that maximize the value of each dollar spent and ensure resources are allocated according to the mission's priorities.
In conclusion, building a next-generation defense budget system requires an integrated approach to planning and resource allocation across short-term, medium-term, and long-term time horizons. Bridging the gap between strategy and execution and ensuring that our defense budget is optimally aligned with our mission objectives is critical. It is time to modernize our defense budget system, so leaders can more effectively prioritize cutting-edge programs, deliver advanced capabilities to our warfighters, and maintain a competitive advantage over our near-peer adversaries.