By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Aug. 31, 2023) -- Last year, the Defense Department's financial management community demonstrated remarkable agility in developing four supplemental budgets -- an unprecedented feat -- in addition to DOD's regular, baseline budget.
Those supplemental budgets supported: Operation Allies Welcome, the federal government's efforts to resettle Afghans; work at the Red Hill fuel storage site in Hawaii; an array of natural disasters; and Ukraine defense.
During DOD's recent financial management conference, Michael McCord, undersecretary of defense comptroller and chief financial officer, remarked that the effort demonstrated the ability of DOD's financial management community to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy.
"The National Defense Strategy outlines our security priorities, defending the homeland, paced to the ... growing threat posed by the People's Republic of China across many domains -- from cyber to nuclear weapons," McCord said.
The NDS also paints Russia as an acute threat, McCord said, and asks the department to deter strategic attacks against the U.S., its allies and partners and to be prepared to prevail in conflict, especially in the Indo-Pacific theater. All of that, he said, demands a remarkable level of agility from agencies within the department, including those in the financial management community.
"Last year, as an example of that agility and responsiveness, we had four supplementals in one calendar year," McCord said. "I've never seen that before -- four [in] a year. All of them were done quickly and with broad support from Congress. It speaks to that broad support for what we're doing. And it also illustrates our need to be agile and our ability to be agile in our [financial management] community."
In the future, McCord said, it's likely there will continue to be more opportunities, such as with Ukraine, for the financial management community to step up to unexpected requirements. There will be more opportunities for the financial management community to continue to demonstrate its agility, he said.
"Ukraine is not going to be the last case of emerging national commitment demanding our assistance," he said. "In fact, we're seeing them all over the place ... we have to be in a position to move quickly at all times. Conflicts and wars and crises, humanitarian crises, remain common worldwide. Along with allies across the globe, we have to continue to support freedom and human rights as we've been doing."
McCord said that while the president and Congress have increased DOD funding by $100 billion over the past two years, the timing of each budget's delivery continues to pose problems.
"Support for the top line is great," McCord said. "Timing and timeliness of that support matter just as much. One thing that is not so great is this pattern of recurring, lengthy, persistent, continuing resolutions. These negatively impact our mission."
"It's more difficult to compete -- especially with China, who tends to move faster than we think [and] tends to deliver things faster than we thought they would," he said.
Part of a solution to that problem, McCord said, is increased communication with Congress -- and better listening, as well.
"It's also our job to continue to help remind people and enable our service chiefs and secretaries to remind people on the harm that this dynamic does for us," he said. "And speaking of communicating, we can't succeed if we're not communicating with Congress -- both our priorities and hearing their concerns, not just ... transmitting. We have to listen."
McCord said he spent several years working on Capitol Hill and is familiar with how committee work is done and of its importance.
"I have firsthand appreciation for what goes into their work and how seriously our oversight committees take their work," he said. "Open communication between the administration and the Hill is key to making our process work."