Book Excerpt from “Resourcing the National Security Enterprise” (Chapter 10)

In chapter 10, “Programming Department of Defense Strategic Priorities,” John Ferrari discusses time as a critical factor in the resourcing calculus. He talks both about the time needed to become an expert of the system and in terms of the time an idea or strategy has the greatest chance of actually being adopted and resourced. “There are no shortcuts,” Ferrari writes. “Only by understanding time and bounding the strategy available can a strategist be effective.” Below, Ferrari explains how to work effectively within the Planning, Programming, Budget, and Execution (PPBE) process:

To work effectively within the PPBE process, one must understand multiple dimensions of time. The first dimension is the tyranny of the POM process. The POM process, as designed by systems engineers, is a disciplined, data-driven, time-based process, tied to delivering its output in time to enable the annual budget submission in February. Within the PPBE process, certain events happen at certain times; if one does not show up to the right meeting, with the right information, at the right time of the year, it is like missing a train that only comes annually. Once the train leaves the station, it does not return for another year. Therefore, if the strategy submission is not synchronized to the PPBE phases, the strategy will be irrelevant.

To maximize the value of a strategy, leaders and policy makers within the DoD should deliver the strategy to programmers by October or November. If the strategy document is delivered past November, the proverbial train would have already left the station, and by the following year, the document will likely have become irrelevant. To make this already complicated process more complex, it is actually a series of four overlapping one-year cycles that takes forty-eight months to elapse. Think of the PPBE process not as a single-year train schedule but rather a four-year train schedule, with four trains running all at the same time. As a strategist, one not only has to know what time to show up to the station but also to which train to hook the strategy document—or the strategy will likely wind up on the wrong train.

Resourcing the National Security Enterprise: Connecting the Ends and Means of US National Security by Susan Bryant and Mark Troutman is available in hardcover, paperback, and digital editions. It is part of the Cambria Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security (RCCS) Series (General Editor: Dr. Geoffrey R.H. Burn).

John Ferrari is a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and retired from the US Army as a major general after 32 years of service, of which over a dozen years were associated with defense resourcing. He served as the US Army’s top strategic resource manager as the Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation, in addition to time on the Joint Staff and at the Office of Management and Budget. Ferrari holds an MBA from the Wharton School and a BS in Computer Science from the United States Military Academy.