Operating in the grim 2014 fiscal environment, DoD strategic leaders are challenged to reduce the budget while retaining balance across military readiness, force structure, and modernization. Yet modernization has proven to be a double-edged sword. Despite delivering highly effective combat capability, complex new weapon systems are failing to meet reliability requirements driving higher life-cycle costs. Thus today’s modernization creates tomorrow’s operations and support budget dilemma. Sustainable modernization requires acquisition strategies to produce new capabilities which meet reliability requirements. To close the reliability gap, strategic engagement is required earlier in modernization to correct the cultural bias that favors effectiveness over reliability resulting in unacceptable long-term sustainment costs. Early strategic influence must create cultural change to set the conditions for existing reliability reforms to succeed. The paper provides four principles to guide strategic leaders in embedding modernization culture change. If strategic leaders do not correct modernization culture biases, unreliability will extend the gale force winds swirling the military into a budgetary perpetual perfect storm.