Stepping Back From Acquisition Reform: How Our Resourcing Processes Drive Defense Outcomes
An NDIA Report. Publication Date: 29, November 2021
Authors: Jon Etherton, Corbin Evans, Nick Jones, Rachel McCaffrey, Robert Van Steenburg, Jacob Winn
About the Report
General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, USAF (Ret), NDIA President & CEO
As the United States pursues transformative technologies to maintain its competitive advantage, we recognize that resourcing processes will significantly impact our success at delivering these capabilities quickly and efficiently.
We need to take a fresh look at the budget and resourcing process in Congress and DoD, including the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) as it exists today, by describing the resourcing processes, identifying stakeholders, and defining incentives and disincentives in the system. NDIA hopes this report will help stakeholders interested in national security understand current friction points, which can potentially lead to more effective material and ideological support for innovation.
• Recent reform efforts underexamined the drivers of cost growth and poor program performance across the acquisition cycle, especially with respect to understanding the positive and negative incentives in the system driving undesirable outcomes. The acquisition reform conversation’s limited scope prevents analysts, decision-makers, and reformers from gaining a full picture of all factors contributing to disappointing defense acquisition outcomes.
• The nation’s budgeting and appropriations processes impose constraints and restraints on the acquisition system in ways that produce powerful incentives and disincentives for defense resourcing stakeholders. As such, there is a need for those stakeholders and other analysts to step back and evaluate the programming, budgeting, and execution components of processes and how they impact acquisition, with a particular focus on the positive and negative behaviors and externalities that resourcing processes produce.
• This report describes the budgeting and resourcing systems across Congress, the Defense Department, and other parts of the executive branch. It describes the reality that Congress translates the public’s will into budget authority for defense policies and programs, and in response, other institutional actors within the planning, programing, budget, and execution system adapt their behavior to successfully navigate current and future rounds of budgeting and appropriations to ensure successful programming and execution.
• This reality yields significant consequences — some highly effective, and some counterproductive — for managing cost growth, schedule slippage and program performance. Examples of these consequences include the flexibility constraints that congressional time requirements (a “use it or lose it” requirement for funding) impose on the executive branch, as well as full funding requirements that incentivize agencies to over-purchase capabilities up-front.
• As such, different stakeholders have missions and requirements that define their priorities in ways that may compete with other stakeholder requirements. Because acquisition reform depends on effective resourcing processes, policies, and decisions, we believe that understanding these processes is a key first step in shaping decisions to prioritize the right capabilities for America’s national security.