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GovCon Expert Jerry McGinn: Commission on PPBE Presents Opportunity for DoD to Match Commercial Industry’s Innovations

3 mins read

GovCon Expert Jerry McGinn, executive director of the Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, has shared his thoughts on how the defense acquisition system might strategize within the newly established Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Education (PPBE) Reform.

McGinn, who is a former senior U.S. Defense Department acquisition official and a 2022 Wash100 Award winner, wrote in a Jan. 20, 2022 article for DefenseNews.com that he believes innovations and initiatives for gaining new business into the defense-industrial base have been stymied by old rules and methodologies.

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In the article, he argues that commercial industry operates based on portfolio management and allows for a greater flexibility than the “top-down process” of the Department of Defense’s current budgetary system, which he says “relies heavily on advance planning and detailed cost estimates of projects and technologies spanning years into the future.”

According to McGinn, who co-wrote the article with Eric Lofgren, a senior fellow at the Center for Government Contracting, the Department of Defense is less primed to respond to evolving technologies or new threats that may develop due to its current PPBE processes.

New systems such as Joint All-Domain Command and Control require a budgeting approach that will be responsive to “modularity, iteration and speed,” McGinn writes.

McGinn provides three tenets through which he feels the new PPBE Reform commissioners might make progress:

“Be bold in vision.” With this directive, he suggests the DoD model their budgeting practices after the commercial maneuvers and strategies that he feels are driving innovation.

“Be focused in approach.” McGinn cautions the committee to not bite off more than it can chew and hone its efforts into three focus areas: “(1) portfolio management; (2) reporting and transparency; and (3) budget build process.”

Finally, “be pragmatic in implementation.” Under this suggestion, McGinn recommends the instigation of pilot portfolios throughout the DoD to workshop new ideas and strategies, beginning first with “software-intensive program offices.”

McGinn believes these steps to be crucial in evolving the U.S.’s resource allocation process in order to meet possible threats head-on and keep pace with technological advances.