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Defense Planning Commission Recommends Common Analytics System

The group’s report says that data modernization is critical to streamlining and providing agility to budgeting process.

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U.S. Army Reserve soldiers receive an overview of Washington D.C. as part of the 4th Annual Day with the Army Reserve May 25, 2016. The event was led by the Private Public Partnership office. Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker

The Defense Department’s Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Reform released its final report, “Defense Resourcing for the Future,” this month. The document suggested 28 recommendations to modernize and innovate the department’s resource funding, including a recommendation to create a common analytics platform this year.

“To ensure the DoD can harness the full potential of a common platform, it is imperative for the [integrated product team] to address these challenges, and ensure the environment is prepared to accommodate a variety of missions, skill levels, and needs,” the report read. “A single, consistent, and reliable source of accurate data will transform the way in which DoD conducts its business, but it will not be possible without the significant dedicated attention, focus, and resources of leadership.”

The commission recommended the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office work in conjunction with the DOD CIO, United States Digital Corps, director of the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, and the Performance Improvement Officer & Director of Administration & Management to create a team that would build a common analytics platform within six months.  

“While we didn’t come up with any budget suggestions, what we did strongly advise in a lot of our briefings was that the department refrain from developing bespoke or customized systems for DOD, but they like industry, take standard systems and do the least amount of modification and utilize them,” Ellen Lord, vice chair of the PPBE Reform Commission, said at a Defense Writers Group Breakfast this month. 

Lord said the department should refrain from building its own custom platform because it is the most cost-effective approach. If industry were to build it for the government, it would be easier to implement software upgrades and lessen the need to attract talent from the data analytics industry.  

The commission highlighted the concerns shared by industry partners about the frustration with navigating the Pentagon bureaucracy and suggested a common analytics platform built on the user interface already found in the Advana platform that would be beneficial to public and private sectors.  

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks implored Congress to adopt these recommendations, saying in a written statement that the report tackled “the single most important defense resourcing reform for our generation: a return to predictable and routine resourcing to ensure the federal government can meet the nation’s national security needs.” 

The size of DOD and amount of data can lead to the creation of silos and few opportunities for interoperability, the report noted. Similarly, the budget process “features preparation of the complex and voluminous documentation (justification books or J-books) that accompanies the budget when it is formally submitted to Congress,” the document said.  The commission, formed in 2022, was tasked with mitigating these and related issues and to submit their recommendations to the DOD.  

“The Department of Defense (DoD) needs a new process, one that enables strategy to drive resource allocation in a more rigorous, joint, and analytically informed way. The new process should also embrace changes that enable DOD to respond effectively to emerging threats while leveraging technological advances,” the report said.  

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