In Defense of Programs


This article was originally published on The Strategy Bridge on June 4, 2015.  Thank you to The Strategy Bridge for continuing to publish my work!

The drawdown is upon us. Both the base budget and the overseas contingency operation funding lines are getting smaller. [1] This is forcing Department of Defense (DoD) components to make hard decisions on which programs they want to fund. [2] These hard decisions are informed and influenced by the efforts of strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, program evaluators, and others who do similar work. If DoD components want to survive, and possibly thrive during a drawdown, they need to invest in and reward the work of strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, and program evaluators as they are DoD’s Program Defenders.

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Military recruitment literature usually depicts action, adventure, challenge, and self-growth vice a room full of general officers and members of the senior executive service discussing the program objective memorandum and budget formulation. [3] And yet none of the action, adventure, challenge, and self-growth depicted in the recruitment literature would be possible without funding. Last month while attending a resource analyst training course I was disappointed when a military officer described his work in this arena as something that he is doing until he can get back to “real work” elsewhere in his military department. Based upon experience I submit that the military officer’s point of view is not uncommon. Viewing this work as second-rate, and the personnel who do it as second class, contributes to Congressional authorizations and appropriations below the level requested.

During war, the warfighter takes priority and all efforts revolve around getting he or she what is needed to ensure victory. During a drawdown the same is not true of the strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, and program evaluators though they are the ones defending DoD component programs to Congress. The DoD components embody the phrase “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” This is evidenced over the last decade by both the growth and changes in tables of organization and equipment that took place in response to requirements generated during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stimulus — response. The stimulus now, fiscal constraints, requires a response.

I believe that the DoD component who first establishes a career track with advanced promotion opportunities and additional pay for its strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, and program evaluators will suffer the least during a drawdown. [4] This cadre of program defenders will be the tip of the spear in the budget battles of today and in the future. Compared to money spent on aircraft carriers, armored divisions, or a squadron of advanced fighter aircraft the DoD component expenditure to build a program defender cadre will likely be small. Over time the program defenders will be viewed as a capability multiplier when budget time comes for they will fully understand their operational environment and be able to thrive in it defending DoD component programs against their harshest critics.

[1] Plumer, B. (2013, January 7). America’s staggering defense budget, in charts. Retrieved May 3, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/

[2] Key Issues: Military Force Sizing and Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2015, from http://www.gao.gov/key_issues/military_force_sizing_and_organization/issue_summary

[3] Program Objective Memorandum (POM) / Budget Formulation. (2015, February 11). Retrieved May 2, 2015, from https://dap.dau.mil/acquipedia/Pages/ArticleDetails.aspx?aid=79420a26-7a89-4e94-aad2-6d5d61bb7511

[4] Department of Defense 7000.14-R Financial Management Regulation Volume 7A, Military Pay Policy — Active Duty and Reserve Pay. Retrieved May 2, 2015, from http://comptroller.defense.gov/FMR/vol7a_chapters.aspx

Categories: Budget
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