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Bravo to Ben Kohlmann and Disruptive Thinkers, and to Signal's editors for publishing this. I tilted this windmill many times throughout my Navy and post-Navy career. The DoD planning, programming and budgeting system (PPBS) has been fundamentally dysfunctional since its birth, and every attempt to reform it that I have witnessed has failed, primarily due to Congressional refusal to reform the appropriations process. Yes, the PPBS works, and it is sometimes effective, but it is rarely efficient. As Ben Kohlmann observes, the PPBS very thoroughly discourages bottom-up driven budget efficiencies. This leaves the Defense and Service Secretaries with only the top-down driven option. There are basically only two tools for accomplishing top-down driven efficiency -- a knife for excising ineffective programs and staff functions, and an axe for across-the board cuts. The knife is the far better tool, but is much more difficult and time consuming to wield because even those programs and staff functions most deserving of cuts seem to be able to find enough political backing to delay or prevent their demise. That leaves government with only the axe that cleaves the healthy and effective as well as the wasteful and ineffective. What continues to amaze me is that in the midst of such a horrible process, a few great leaders are able to achieve great things for our military. I'm confident that the current generation of disruptive thinkers and change leaders can develop a better process; the question is, do we have sufficient political will and leadership to implement it?

By Fred Prisley