Planning Programming Budgeting Execution (PPBE) Process

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It’s that time of year again; we’re talking about the federal budget. Ensuring our armed forces are ready and modernized requires a hefty and well-allocated budget, which makes the ongoing challenges posed by the Planning Programming Budgeting Execution (PPBE) process to Department of Defense (DoD) critical to address.

The PPBE process acts as the DoD’s internal process for allocating resources. It results in the Defense budget request, which is included in the President’s Budget (PB) that is submitted to Congress. The PB is submitted generally by the first Monday February for use during the next fiscal year which starts October 1 of that calendar year.

PPBE as it exists currently represents an antiquated methodology for defense procurement. It hinders DoD’s ability to acquire based on need and speed. Industry and defense leaders alike have been clamoring for changes to the process for years and now a formal commission is adding to the push for PPBE reform. The Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform is rallying for change now in its interim report, acknowledging it will take years to turn the ship. They provide clear recommendations for addressing the challenges of the current process head on and they provide specific actions that can be taken now.

The problems with the existing PPBE process are plentiful. The current micromanagement mentality in Congress paired with the lack of connectivity and communication between Congress and DoD during the budget development process make it hard for real-time change to occur. As the government’s requirements change, acquisition policy and practice struggle to adapt which leads to disparity between what’s acquired and what’s required. When Congress receives its version of the budget it includes thousands of individual and relatively small line items along with classified annexes that contain redacted sensitive materials. Congressional committees are pushed to understand and approve the budget before it’s then brought to the rest of the lawmakers where funding is essentially locked in. Once the budget is locked in, adjustments and changes due to changing requirements or circumstances are essentially locked out.

It’s no surprise that budget approval is often delayed at one stage or another, given the amount of content, the condensed timelines, the politics involved, and the lack of clarity throughout the process. These delays and continuing resolutions cripple industry. Because the process for developing the budget is so opaque it often acts as a barrier to entry for new companies who see the whole process as confusing. For more than a decade DoD leaders and industry members alike have been calling for changes to PPBE. The hope now is that the PPBE Reform Commission will act as the catalyst for a broader set of reforms.

The Interim report outlines 10 potential recommendations and 13 actions that can be addressed now to improve the outcomes of the PPBE process. Some of the key recommendations include:

• Promoting Innovation & Adaptability
• Improving alignment between budgets & Strategy
• Improving the Capability of the DoD programming & budgeting workforce

Some of the suggested actions that can be taken now include:

• Improving PPBE related relationships between DoD & Congress
• Promoting innovation & adaptability (essentially transitioning to a portfolio-like approach)
• Improving alignment of budgets to strategy- improving understanding of private sector practices
• Improving business systems & data analytics
• Improving the Capability of the DoD’s programming/planning workforce

Implementing these actions would simplify the process and enable greater transparency across the budgeting functions which would ease the management and oversight strains for government and lawmakers alike. It would streamline the acquisition process and allow lawmakers to comprehend what the budget holds. The reforms would also make it easier for industry to understand the process, which would improve industry relationships and strengthen the industrial base.

All stakeholders are looking for improvement, though concern remains regarding oversight. Congress and the rest of lawmakers want to have sufficient oversight and management of the massive DoD budget. If they aren’t satisfied that they will have enough input into where the money is spent and how, they aren’t likely to implement any changes. The key will be to satisfy those seeking sufficient spending oversight as well as those seeking sweeping reforms.

There is no shortage of pressure as the DoD needs to start preparing mid-year updates on its budget proposals now. They need to start making real-time data available so that when those updates arrive at Capitol Hill, the information isn’t stale, and progress isn’t stalled. The PPBE Commission’s suggestions are clear and if implemented should satisfy all stakeholders involved. By confronting budgetary hurdles head-on and embracing reforms, the U.S. can bolster its defense capabilities and avoid continuing resolutions. As the PPBE Commission underscores, the time to act is now. We’re responsible for ensuring our nation has a military that’s agile, adaptable, and ready to face the future.

#PPBE #DefenseBudgetChallenges #NationalDefense #BudgetPriorities #MilitaryReadiness

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