Defense Budgets

June 20, 2017

Military Retirement Reform: A Case Study in Successful Public Sector Change

Retirement reform is an example of government collaboration at its best. This was a highly orchestrated process of analytic-based consensus-building that was never one individual or even one institution’s reform. As new reforms begin to take shape, those charged with designing and implementing them should consider the lessons this case study offers.

Oct. 1, 2015

The Impact of Rising Compensation Costs on Force Structure

The battle lines have been drawn: containing the growth of military personnel costs is either “a strategic imperative” or “breaking faith with those who have sacrificed so much.”

May 1, 2014

Strategy and Force Planning in a Time of Austerity

On February 13, 1989, General Colin Powell, who was in a transition between National Security Advisor and Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, addressed the reality of strategy: “All of the sophisticated talk about grand strategy is helpful, but show me your budgets and I will tell you what your strategy is.” What General Powell meant is that the definition of the U.S. role in the world and its strategic goals flow from budgets, not the other way around. This paper fleshes out General Powell’s observation by focusing on the means part of the ends, ways, and means of strategy in order to explain how austerity affects force planning and strategy. By first examining budget reductions as a general matter, the paper describes today’s austere U.S. budgetary environment. It concludes with the current strategic options that will likely characterize the contemporary discussion of strategy and force planning.

Jan. 1, 2014

Cut Defense Pork, Revive Presidential Impoundment

Congress builds unnecessary costs into the defense budget by considering employment and contract issues in congressional districts ahead of actual needs. In the face of expenditures beyond what DOD requests, the President should aggressively reenter the fray by jumpstarting the contest between "the powers of the purse versus that of impoundment." There are steps the President can take to "revive his impoundment authority" within constitutional bounds. If a legislative compromise is unobtainable, the President might select a salient example such as the 280 M1 tanks that were produced without being requested and are now candidates for cold storage. With Supreme Court and congressional support, the Commander in Chief may be able to block wasteful or strategically unsound procurement.

July 1, 2004

Defense Laboratories and Military Capability: Headed for a BRACdown?

For 150 years, military laboratories have made vital contributions to national defense. In recent years, they have been significantly reduced in number by several rounds of base realignment and closure (BRAC). Even so, they remain the primary source of internal technical competence within the Department of Defense (DOD). Their capability in that role will depend on how DOD answers two questions. Is there excess laboratory capacity - too many laboratories relative to forecasts of future force structure? What is their military value - their likely contribution to the future operational needs of warfighters.

Sept. 1, 2003

A New PPBS Process to Advance Transformation

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has released its first Transformational Planning Guidance to steer the Armed Forces through a joint process of transformation. This is a strong step in the direction of making transformation and innovation visible parts of the defense planning process, but more is needed. The planning, programming, and budgeting system (PPBS) through which the Department of Defense (DOD) prioritizes its programs and resources has to be restructured to facilitate transformation and innovation, not to obstruct them. DOD has begun a trial resource allocation process that will reduce the burden of repetitive report generation that has drained time and energy away from innovative, strategic change. This process gives senior leadership an opportunity to shift its attention from wrestling with budget detail to developing initiatives to transform U.S. forces. However, this change will not happen of its own accord. A set of proposals that would enable senior leadership to move its focus from the back end (budgeting) of the resource allocation process to the front end (planning and idea generation) is presented below. A review of how the PPBS has evolved is presented to highlight the need to target specific parts for restructuring.