Programme-based force development or programme-based defence resource management refers to the process of developing armed forces’ capabilities via short-term programmes. These programmes detail how resource allocation translates into realisation of the country’s security policy in the short-term. The advantage of programme-based force development is that, unlike long-term planning it is malleable, because it takes into account strict budget lines, environmental changes and focuses on improving concrete capabilities.

pbfd-1What is Programme-Based Force Development?

The role of force development programmes is to link policy requirements to budgets and to make the connection between long-term vision and short-term plans. Force development programmes are part of overall defence programmes that include, among other things, budget management plans, acquisition plans, recruitment plans, education and training plans, provision plans, and procurement plans.

Why is it important?

A capability-oriented programme provides decision-makers with better understanding of policy implications of their resource decisions. That is, how their decisions on resource management translate into armed forces’ capabilities and into national defence policy and objectives.[1]

Defence programmes are important management tools. In addition to their key role in the planning process, they support rigorous implementation of oversight. Receiving up-to-date information on the status of the defence programmes, senior civilian and military leaders can assess realistically the status of defence reform and transformation efforts, and if necessary, implement corrective measures. Defence programme information also facilitates oversight and audits performed by the legislature and its specialised organisations such as the national audit office.[2]

Programme-based defence resource management is an efficient tool to manage defence transformation, providing for transparency of decision making, democratic control and accountability. This process allows relating defence policy to money allocations, assuring “value for money” budgeting and oversight of the armed forces. It also promotes civilian participation in the development of defence policy and contributes to the effective, transparent and economically viable management of defence spending.[3]

How does it work?

Defence programmes transform resources into capabilities. Relevant programmes have a hierarchical structure comprising programmes and sub-programmes. Countries that intend to introduce programme-based defence resource management are advised to adhere to the following key principles:

  • Programmes should relate as clearly and as closely as possible spending to product (capabilities)
  • Programmes should be comprehensive with no spending outside the programme allowed and transparency and accountability every step of the way
  • The process of programme development must be inclusive and allow participation of all the key actors
  • The programme must be objective and manageable[4]

Defence policy and National Security Policy serve as a guiding framework to this process, in which, needs, existing capabilities, potential threats, available and future resources are assessed in order to establish development programmes or plans.

Who is involved?

Programme-based defence resource management system includes the following steps:

  1. Preparation of a Programming Guidance
  2. Design of programmes and programme alternatives
  3. Programme review, culminating in a decision on the Defence Programme
  4. Budget planning
  5. Budget execution
  6. Reporting
  7. Auditing

The programming guidance, usually issued by the Minister of Defence, sets explicit defence objectives, main requirements, priorities, the overall budget level and preliminary budget quotas for each main programme, provides information necessary to cost defence programmes, assigns responsibilities and sets the schedule. The design of programmes is an expert activity, based on considerable specialised knowledge and experience in the respective field. Experts review the programme design and its compliance with the programming guidance. Senior leaders decide on the programmes and programme alternatives to be financed. The decision is recorded in a document, often named “Programme Decision Memorandum”, which after authorisation of the Minister of Defence, serves as an authoritative statement of both policy and budget decisions of the senior leaders of the defence establishment.[5]


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[1] Todor Tagarev, ‘Introduction to Programme-Based Force Development’, Defence Management: An Introduction. Security and Defence Management Series No. 1. p. 85.

[2] Todor Tagarev, ‘Introduction to Programme-Based Force Development’ p. 78.

[3] Ibid., p. 92.

[4] Ibid., p. 82.

[5] Ibid., p 90-92.


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