Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution in Comparative Organizations

Research Questions

  1. What are the key features of resource planning in each comparative case?
  2. What are the perceived strengths and challenges of the comparative processes?
  3. What are the potential lessons from each case regarding DoD’s PPBE System?
  4. How might adversary processes affect U.S. comparative advantage and disadvantage?

The U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) System was originally developed in the 1960s as a structured approach for planning long-term resource development, assessing program cost-effectiveness, and aligning resources to strategies. Yet changes to the strategic environment, the industrial base, and the nature of military capabilities have raised the question of whether existing U.S. defense budgeting processes remain well aligned with national security needs.

Congress called for the establishment of the Commission on PPBE Reform. As part of its data collection efforts, the commission asked RAND researchers to conduct case studies of defense budgeting processes across nine comparative organizations: five international defense organizations and four U.S. federal government agencies. Congress also specifically requested two case studies of near-peer competitors, and the research team selected the other seven cases in close partnership with the commission.

In this second volume of four reports on this subject, RAND researchers conduct case studies of the defense budgeting processes of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom (UK). Researchers conducted extensive document reviews and structured discussions with subject-matter experts with experience in the budgeting processes of Australia, Canada, and the UK. Each case study was assigned a unique team with appropriate regional or organizational expertise. The analysis was also supplemented by experts in the U.S. PPBE process.

Key Findings

  • Australia, Canada, and the UK have a shared commitment to democratic institutions with the United States and converge on a similar strategic vision.
  • Foreign military sales are an important mechanism for strategic convergence but pose myriad challenges for coordination and resource planning.
  • The Australian, Canadian, and UK political systems shape the roles and contours of resource planning.
  • Australia, Canada, and the UK have less legislative intervention in budgeting processes, relative to the United States, and do not need to confront the challenges of operating without a regular appropriation (as is the case under continuing resolutions).
  • Strategic planning mechanisms in Australia, Canada, and the UK harness defense spending priorities and drive budget execution.
  • Jointness in resource planning appears to be easier in Australia, Canada, and the UK, given the smaller size and structure of their militaries.
  • Australia, Canada, and the UK place a greater emphasis on budget predictability and stability than on agility.
  • Despite the common emphasis on stability, each system provides some budget flexibility to address unanticipated changes.
  • Similar budget mechanisms are used in Australia, Canada, and the UK.
  • Australia, Canada, and the UK have all pivoted toward supporting agility and innovation in the face of lengthy acquisition cycles.
  • Australia, Canada, and the UK have independent oversight functions for ensuring transparency, audits, or contestability of budgeting processes.
  • Despite the push to accept additional risk, there is still a cultural aversion to risk in the Australian, Canadian, and British budgeting processes.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two


    Andrew Dowse, Benjamin J. Sacks, Austin Wyatt, and Jade Yeung

  • Chapter Three


    Devon Hill and Yuliya Shokh

  • Chapter Four

    United Kingdom

    James Black, Nicolas Jouan, and Benjamin J. Sacks

  • Chapter Five

    Key Insights from Case Studies of Selected Allied and Partner Nations

This research was sponsored by the Commission on Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) Reform and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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