Financing the Fight

History and Assessment of DoD Budget Execution Processes

As it begins debating budget processes in the Department of Defense (DoD), Congress will need to assess the processes for utilizing approved budgets, known as budget execution.  Based on the historical evolution of budget execution processes, along with the author’s experience as Air Force and DoD comptroller, the paper assesses how well the processes achieve three key goals:

  • Today’s processes still have difficulty executing budgets efficiently; 
  • Current processes comply reasonably well with most key laws and regulations but have yet to achieve auditable financial statements; 
  • Interviews with former senior military commanders suggest that DoD’s financial people and processes are quite effective at helping meet national security needs, arguably the most important of the three goals.

But today’s budget execution processes need improvements.  Most importantly, DoD needs to work with Congress to find ways to repair and improve the reprogramming process and to improve execution of budgets for software and high-tech initiatives that have become so critical to meeting warfighter needs.

This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

Robert F. Hale
Senior Adviser (Non-Resident), Defense Budget Analysis