February 08, 2016

CNAS Releases Report on Reforming the Pentagon’s Budgeting Process


With the FY2017 Defense Budget set to drop, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program researcher Michelle Shevin-Coetzee has released a new report, “The Labyrinth Within: Reforming the Pentagon’s Budgeting Process.” The report examines the current budget process and makes recommendations for better aligning strategy and resources in a time of shrinking and unpredictable budgets. Among many others, the report’s recommendations include: 

  • Planning for further budget reductions;
  • Empowering a Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) czar;
  • Strengthening PPBE’s execution phase; and
  • Standardizing the PPBE process.

The full report is available here:
Please find the introduction to the report below:
The current austere fiscal environment has brought the debate over the defense budget to the forefront of policymakers’ agendas. Technical terminology once deemed irrelevant for policy discussions – continuing resolutions, excepted personnel, furloughs, government shutdowns, and sequestration – is both seeping into the Pentagon’s daily lexicon and familiarizing the public discourse. Evolving figures and budget scenarios have begun to overshadow a much-needed discussion on the appropriate size and shape of the force.
Confronted by shrinking and unpredictable budgets, as well as persistent international challenges, the Pentagon requires a more agile and efficient system to align strategy with resources. Created during the early stages of the Cold War, the modern Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process is designed to do just that.
Yet as that process unfolds today, it is deeply flawed, preventing the Pentagon’s budgetary preparations from progressing in the comprehensive and coordinated manner that was intended. In particular, there are three discrepancies between PPBE’s “theory” codified in Pentagon directives and the more disjointed “practice” by which senior officials undertake this process: an unrealistic timeline, a stove-piped analytic system to model scenarios, and a reliance on Overseas Contingency Operations funding. Until these constraints are addressed, DoD cannot budget properly for the future security environment and is forced, therefore, to endure additional and unnecessary risk.

Shevin-Coetzee is available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or call 202-457-9409.


  • Michelle Shevin-Coetzee