September 23, 2021

Presentation is key: Why the Pentagon’s budget data needs a makeover

By Jennie Matuschak

Within the fiscal 2022 defense budget request, the Department of Defense has invested in the next generation of leading emerging technologies and capabilities. Ironically, at the same time, the way in which the funding of these new capabilities is organized is entirely outdated. As a pleasant surprise, however, the FY22 National Defense Authorization Act, which had its House Armed Services Committee markup hearing earlier this month, requires the DoD to provide reports on how to improve defense budget-related materials.

While improvements to budget data materials don’t earn the award for sexiest line in the NDAA, it was a pleasant surprise to see this issue garner some attention. Although we’ve become accustomed to traversing the treasure trove of budget data, improvements to the materials are long overdue — not only to make the lives of budget analysts easier, but to ensure greater transparency and oversight, thus helping ensure resources align to strategy.

As technology advances, Congress and the DoD need to not only focus investments on capabilities, but also on DoD processes and organizational culture.

Each year, the department releases budget justification documents, which consist of essential budget data, in the form of thousands of PDF pages and several Excel files across multiple websites. The format of these materials has not changed for roughly 20 years.

The first major issue with the presentation of defense budget data is that it’s scattered. Data is dispersed across PDFs and Excel files, making it difficult to accurately and comprehensively cover the financial tracks of an entire program. Moreover, the sorting and tagging functions within the materials are rudimentary at best.

Read the full article from Defense News.

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