Prioritize iterative changes over time

Our research showed that amongst PPBE reform experts, current and potential enclave users, and DoD staff, there is little consensus around what the most important piece of this process is or where to start. Most of our participants agreed that digital data sharing for any of the PPBE processes would be useful, but further research is needed to understand where it is most feasible to begin.

The following section highlights potential areas and data sets to build into the future enclave. These recommendations focus on modernizing whole pieces of the PPBE process to help streamline communication. Multiple process areas can be worked on at the same time, especially as data sources are added to the enclave and overlapping resource needs are identified. The most important thing is to start somewhere meaningful and keep iterating.

The President’s Budget. Passing the President’s Budget is the annual process that every agency must go through to accomplish the work of the government. Starting the enclave here would be less politically sensitive than accessing and sharing other data sets because this information is already publicly available.

The President’s Budget isn’t the greatest source of friction between Congress and DoD, so it is a safer entry point to establish patterns of collaboration, before tackling harder problems that require resolving security access and clearance issues.

Justification Books. The integrated product team should consider prioritizing the PPBE Reform Commission’s recommendation of making the J-Books more consistent.1 Digitizing this process and improving the massive exchange of paper would address a common complaint from Congress and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) staff.

Staffer Day Briefing Materials. Our research showed that staffer days and in-person briefings were the most useful sources of information for Congressional staff. Because DoD is essentially pitching priority programs, the information they provide to Congressional staff is generally well thought out and effectively presented. The information presented is current and the in-person exchange allows for context that converts DoD data into actionable knowledge.

These in-person sessions are supported by information compiled by DoD and provided to Congress to support these conversations. Congressional staffers rely heavily on these briefing materials and artifacts to make decisions. They find them extremely useful, collating them into binders and tracking them over several years. Some binders are passed on to others as portfolios shift, creating valuable resources that are accessible to only a few individuals.

Digitizing these briefing materials would be an excellent place to start as they present specific scenarios, use cases, and data sets. Because the Staffer day materials contain CUI, however, digitizing briefing materials would require proper authentication and security up to IL 5.

Unclassified Acquisition and Execution Data. This is perhaps the most requested place to start from an information sharing perspective. Congress wants up-to-date data on program schedules, requirements, costs, updated obligations and expenditure rates, and a plain language overview of what is bought and why. Although further research is needed to identify more specific information requirements, program acquisition and execution data seem to make up a significant percentage of Congressional budget inquiries.

This data will be the most politically fraught. In the past, DoD has been hesitant to share this information because it fears micromanagement from Congress, improper or intrusive intervention, or politically-motivated scrutiny or interference. Sharing this data requires careful consideration of the level of fidelity and frequency with which updates are made to provide a level of oversight that is constructive and meaningful. The right balance would ensure that Congress receives useful updates with relevant context while DoD retains executive authority to manage programs and make course corrections. This effort would require careful navigation of sensitive issues.

Acquisition and execution data is also likely the most technically challenging data to incorporate into the enclave, as the pilot project makes clear. Although more research is needed in this space, our initial review indicates that this data is fragmented and dispersed across many disparate systems that may be hard to identify. We do not know to what degree Advana already ingests this data. The differences in the cadence (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) and fidelity of data tracking is also unknown. Early examples, such as DAVE, exposed significant errors and may cause more harm than good if released or relied upon more broadly. Further research and technical investigation will be needed to understand how complex this problem is and how best to normalize data from multiple sources.

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This site was last updated on 12 MAR 2024.