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Comptroller Explains All-Inclusive DoD Needs

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, March 07, 2016 — The Defense Department’s planning, programming and budgeting, or PPB, process covers not only today’s wars, but planning for the future, and it’s a daunting task, the DoD comptroller said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here today.

Mike McCord -- as the department’s chief financial officer -- detailed how strategy turns into financial decisions during an event that examined the PPB process.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter gave budgeteers clear guidance on what to plan for in the fiscal year 2017 defense budget request -- Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism. “It’s not acceptable to say I can only afford to do three or four of these. We have to be able to do them all,” McCord said.

Planning for the Future

“One of the things … that’s striking to me is that … any secretary of defense lives in the here and now a lot, spends a lot of time with the White House, a lot of time responding to what’s going on today and to current challenges,” he said. “But this secretary has us thinking well into the future.”

And that thinking is all-inclusive -- crossing domains, geographic areas, services and agencies, McCord said.

In every domain, every part of the world from now into the future, Carter is “demanding that we be excellent across so many ranges of geography, time and domain -- something that I think few, if any, militaries would attempt to do what we attempt to do, let alone to excel at so much of it.”

Carter is also demanding the department innovate. And while much of this involves new technology, it is more, McCord said. “‘Force of the Future’ is the phrase that the secretary uses to talk about innovating and how we attract and retain talent,” he said. “I think that that's proven so far to be a little bit easily misunderstood, because our talent level is so high already. So there are some who ask, why do we need to do anything new? Because it’s working well what we do today.”

Things Change

It’s because things change, and what DoD needs today to attract and retain the best will change in the future, McCord said.

“An interesting aspect of this is just last year, a great degree of cooperation between an independent commission and the Congress and the department resulted in a military retirement reform, something that hasn’t happened in 30 years,” he said.

Retirement is now geared towards a more portable benefit, one that allows service members who don’t stay 30 years to walk away with more than they do now, McCord said.

“Portable benefits are obviously a part of that that attract people in the rest of the world and we think it will work for us,” he said. “We’ve also talked about in recent days, some of the non-monetary compensation benefits: child care hours, maternity and paternity leave expansion; things that recognize that what attracts and retains a person isn’t always just their paycheck.”

Innovation, Agility

Innovation also means creating an agile, responsive system, McCord said. “We need to be agile in how we operate, agile in how we think as well as having new technology and the best people,” he said.

McCord praised November’s budget deal that resulted in the $583 billion defense budget request for FY 17.

Looking to the future, there will need to be more deals, more negotiations, more discussions, he said. “This is a two-year budget deal that expires after this year and it leaves the question open again for where we are going on defense resources, so we’re starting from a better place by having this deal than if we had been stuck where we were before,” McCord said.

The deal gave some stability to troops, industry partners and defense planners, he said.

While the department didn’t get everything it sought, McCord said, Pentagon leaders “recognize that that was always a possible outcome when you’re seeking a compromise, that you might not get everything that you wanted.”

McCord said he considers the biggest risk in the FY 17 budget request not the choices that were made to meet the short-term budget reductions, but the $100 billion difference in the four years remaining of the Budget Control Act caps.

“That’s about $25 billion a year in extra resources,” he said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)