There must be no further delay in finalizing the National Security Doctrine, on the basis of which integrated threat assessments can be made”, says the author
Over the years, continuing efforts have been made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to promote jointness through integration of the planning, training and other systems so that, progressively, a triservice approach could get fully established. However, certain issues continue to affect the efficient functioning of the defence apparatus: There must be no further delay in finalising the National Security Doctrine, on the basis of which integrated threat assessments can be made. While some improvements have been achieved in the past years, the MoD must enforce strict measures to ensure that the DRDO, ordnance factories, defence public sector undertakings and other concerned agencies function efficiently to deliver supplies and services as per the envisaged time and cost schedules. Prolonged delays cause serious difficulties for the armed forces and large economic losses as the lack of certainty about supplies from indigenous sources compels expensive imports. While there have been notable advances in the rationalisation of the procurement policies and procedures, there is still need to ensure against prolonged acquisition proceedings as such delays altogether nullify the “make or buy” approaches.
The individual services enjoy the autonomy of taking decisions to make their own selections of weapons, equipment and systems. The Integrated Service Headquarters must take effective steps to establish a tri-service approach in regard to such decisions as doing so will engender very significant financial savings.
Defence planning process has still to get established. The X and XI Plans were implemented without receiving formal approvals. While the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan has since been finalised, it is still viewed as a totalling up of the wish lists of the individual services. The Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) must devote urgent attention towards finalising a fully integrated defence plan with at least a 10- 15 year perspective.
The services enjoy the authority of virtually settling their own manpower policies. The pro-rata percentage representation of arms and services in the Army needs to be modified as it is virtually a “quota system” which breeds group loyalties and cuts at the very roots of jointness within the service.
While the functioning of the defence apparatus has been getting steadily refined, the continuing lack of consensus among the three services is thwarting the achievement of the vital objective of “jointness”. A number of joint service institutions have come into existence in the post Kargil War period. Among the new institutions, frequent references are made to the IDS, Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Andaman & Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command. While it may be far too early to rejoice over these inter-agency institutions, it is disconcerting to learn that the individual services are not doing all that is required to see that these get fully established without facing delays and difficulties. A former Army Chief is quoted to say that the IDS is “a redundancy in military bureaucracy”; the founder Director of DIA is quoted to bring out that “the DIA cannot deliver as the intelligence agencies of the three services feel threatened by it” and about the IDS it is stated that “the services will never allow this body to function as they feel threatened that it will start examining the basis of their budgetary proposals, acquisition plans and force structures”.
Consequences of economic meltdown
The time has come for the individual services to close their ranks and get collectively concerned about the major threats and formidable challenges which we face in our close neighbourhood and beyond. The global security environment is continuing to become growingly complex and huge uncertainties loom large on various fronts. Our military has to be also concerned about the consequences of the economic meltdown and the strong likelihood of the allocations for defence facing a significant decline. In this scenario, to prepare for successfully meeting future challenges, it is of the highest importance that the individual services shed all reservations and establish meaningful jointness. A truly tri-service approach will reduce functional overlaps, wasteful duplications and redundancies. The IDS have already promulgated a joint doctrine for the armed forces, which is presently undergoing revision because of the differing views of the service headquarters on several issues. Any delay in this regard would come in the way of the armed forces preparing themselves fully for delivering an effective response when any emergency arises in the future.
The defence ministry must realise the need to keep a very close watch on the rising cost of maintaining the military apparatus and ensuring that the high cost of the longer term acquisitions can be met from within the future availability of resources. Urgent attention needs being paid to reducing dependency on imports. This would require a very vigorous revving up of the ongoing indigenisation programmes. In the years past, only the Navy initiated systematic steps to foster indigenisation of their major platforms and systems and deserve all praise for the wonderful outcomes which they have already been able to achieve. It also needs being noted that India is not the only country which is engaged in dealing with problems relating to the functioning of the defence management apparatus. Many democracies have been facing such problems and, benefitting from their own past experiences, several countries have established strong parliamentary oversight bodies to monitor all important issues relating to their armed forces. Some countries have even inducted external experts to monitor their ongoing defence reform processes.
Evolving a model for jointness
India cannot and must not be left behind in doing all that needs to be done for strengthening and enhancing our national security interests. We need to develop our own model of defence management which vigorously promotes and sustains military professionalism while being fully in tune with our constitutional framework and in harmony with our glorious traditions and soldiering. The model to be evolved should also not be excessively encumbered with varied hierarchical fixations which are rooted in our colonial past. Considering the threats and challenges which loom on our horizon it is extremely important that our higher defence management structures are founded in the need to maintain a sensitive balance between the civil and military components and, side by side, ensuring that the entire military apparatus functions strictly within the parameters of “jointness”. It would be an ideal situation if the service chiefs were to collaborate closely and for the Chiefs of Staff Committee to itself take the various required decisions to pave the way for the future and establish jointness, brick upon brick.
In the past over two decades many useful opportunities were lost because of the lack of convergence in the views of the service headquarters. If jointness and a tri-service approach cannot be achieved soon enough then, perhaps, the only option left may be to proceed towards replacing the existing single service Acts by an Armed Forces Act which would lay a statutory basis for achieving jointness and delineating the roles, duties and missions of the armed forces, as also the procedures and modalities relating to the functioning of the defence apparatus. In this context, it may not be out of place to recall that the US achieved its objectives by promulgating the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986, after nearly four decades of experimentation under the aegis of its National Security Act. More recently, because of the serious budgetary problems faced by the country, UK has been devoting a high level of attention to reforms in its defence management apparatus. In this context, the Levene Report has sought to clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of ministers, civilian officers and the military at the policy, strategic and operational levels.
A dedicated security cadre
In so far as the tenure of civilians working in the MoD are concerned, a dedicated security administration cadre should be established by drawing in the best available talent from the civil services, defence services, DRDO, science and technology, information and communication technology, broadcasting and media, et al. This dedicated cadre should enjoy open ended tenures and those found fit should be enabled to develop specialisation in dealing with security related matters and be deployed in the MoD, Ministry of Home Affairs, Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, National Security Council secretariat and other security management related areas for their entire careers.
This recommendation is contained in the Report of the Task Force on Internal Security (2000). It was accepted by the Group of Ministers (GoM) and after hearing it, the GoM had gone further and added that as “the assignments in these ministries/agencies are perceived as exacting and unattractive, the members of such a pool should, therefore, be appropriately compensated by provision of non-monetary incentives”. It is time to resurrect and speedily implement this decision of the GoM. Another factor noted by the GoM was related to the marked difference in the perception of roles between the civil and military officers. A task force was set up to work out the curricula for organising a continuing Joint Civil and Military Training Programme on National Security, which would be undergone by Brigadier and Major General and equivalent rank officers, IAS, IPS, IFS, central police forces and, as the training settled down, participants would also be drawn from the media, industry and other arenas. On the basis of this task force’s recommendations the first two-week programme commenced at the IAS Training Academy at Mussoorie, in February 2003. This programme has been successfully continuing for over a decade now and the 20th course commenced at Mussoorie in November 2013. It would be beneficial if the MoD reviews this programme and suitably recast its contents to meet the existing and emerging scenarios.