The leaders of the congressional Armed Services Committees have selected the first four members of a new commission tasked with reviewing the Pentagon’s budgeting process, to include a former top acquisition official and comptroller at the department.

The 14-member panel was established per the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and the initial group of members includes some familiar names who are set to assess potential reforms to how defense spending plans are constructed.

Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, speaks with reporters at the Pentagon, Oct. 7, 2020. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

“The NDAA tasked the commission with assessing the effectiveness of the Defense Department’s planning, programming, budgeting, and execution process (PPBE); examining more efficient alternatives to the process; and developing policy recommendations that will enable the Defense Department to rapidly field operational capabilities and outpace America’s near-peer competitors,” the lawmakers noted in the announcement.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), selected former DoD Comptroller Robert Hale, who served as the department’s top financial official from 2009 to 2014, and is now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Reed, in particular, has led the effort to assess PPBE reforms, saying the process has been largely unchanged since the 1960s and it’s “likely too slow and cumbersome to meet many of DoD’s requirements to adopt new technologies in a rapid, agile manner” (Defense Daily, May 14). 

Eric Fanning, the president of the Aerospace Industries Association and former Army secretary during the Obama administration, was selected by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the House Armed Services Committee chair.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), SASC’s top Republican, chose Ellen Lord, who was under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment during the Trump administration and now serves as a senior adviser at The Chertoff Group on defense, homeland security and critical infrastructure programs. 

Inhofe noted, in his statement, that Lord “led implementation of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework and oversaw the department’s significant contracting and logistics support in the interagency response to COVID-19.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), HASC’s ranking member, went with Raj Shah, a former leader of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, which seeks to build partnerships with companies working on emerging technologies and who is now a managing partner of Shield Capital investment firm. 

The remaining 10 members on the commission will be appointed by the secretary of defense, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the speaker and minority leader of the House and the leaders of the congressional Appropriations Committees. 

A final report on the commission’s findings is due to HASC, SASC and the defense secretary by September 24, 2023.