Pentagon budget planning ‘out of sync’ with operational needs

The Defense Department's planning, programming, budget and execution system is too slow and inflexible to adequately support operations and makes it unnecessarily difficult for the military services "to adjust resources in a volatile world of unpredictable new threats," according to a new survey of managers.

In addition, Defense finance professionals deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan said they need more help from their colleagues back home to better support troops on the battlefield.

The use of supplemental funding for overseas contingency operations since 2001 also has complicated matters for managers, because "such funds were not always calculated using full life-cycle costs, leaving a legacy of unfunded operations and maintenance resource demands, which will plague defense budgets for years to come," the questionnaire found.

Those are just some of the findings of a survey of 1,014 civilian and uniformed Defense financial managers the American Society of Military Comptrollers conducted and the Alexandria, Va.-based consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP sponsored. It is the eighth such annual survey since 2003.

According to respondents, the system for developing five-year budget plans, known as PPBE, is too rigid to meet rapid changes in battlefield needs. One executive interviewed for the survey said, "PPBE takes 18 to 24 months, while the warfighter needs 18 to 24 days' reaction time -- and sometimes even a few hours. We need more flexibility to support the warfighter."

Another respondent said, "[PPBE] consumes a tremendous amount of man-years to complete, and then in the end it always comes down to critical, last-minute decisions made by a handful of people to make it balance. Even then, there is always a lot of broken glass that is left up to the execution year financial managers to fix."

Survey respondents said the financial management workforce needs to be rebalanced to use fewer contractors and more government employees, but that first, the cumbersome civilian personnel hiring system must be addressed.

Respondents included personnel from all military branches, including the Coast Guard, but the bulk of them were from the Army (37 percent), the Air Force (34 percent) and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (12 percent). The survey also included interviews with 26 executives: 11 Navy, seven Army, four Defense, three Marine Corps and one Air Force.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.