Dy­nam­icD Ap­proach of the N New De­fence Min­is­ter

The Min­istry of De­fence is a mam­moth min­istry with a very large num­ber of de­fence pub­lic sec­tor in­dus­trial units whose ef­fi­ciency and out­put is by and large un­sat­is­fac­tory

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

The Min­istry of De­fence is a mam­moth min­istry with a very large num­ber of de­fence pub­lic sec­tor in­dus­trial units whose ef­fi­ciency and out­put is by and large un­sat­is­fac­tory.

NIR­MALA SITHARA­MAN HAS BEEN made the De­fence Min­is­ter of In­dia. The fact that the Prime Min­is­ter of In­dia has en­trusted her with this im­por­tant port­fo­lio also speaks volumes for her ad­min­is­tra­tive tal­ent and past ef­fi­ciency when she was hold­ing the Com­merce port­fo­lio as a Min­is­ter of State. Sithara­man be­came the first woman De­fence Min­is­ter of the coun­try since Indira Gandhi held the charge.

De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man has al­ready stated that she in­tends to hold daily meet­ings with all three ser­vice chiefs and the de­fence sec­re­tary to en­sure quick de­ci­sion mak­ing in her min­istry. Sithara­man has laid spe­cial em­pha­sis on the need to step up the pace of mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment which de­spite some dy­namism showed by the erst­while De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar in the past, the state of equip­ment and mod­erni­sa­tion is in a de­plorable across the board in all three ser­vices. In the In­dian Army from ba­sic weapons like car­bines and as­sault ri­fles, to ar­tillery how­itzers and he­li­copters, sur­veil­lance and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment, night fight­ing aids etc all need re­place­ment/pro­cure­ment. More­over, till very re­cently even cer­tain cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion were in such short sup­ply thus there was no am­mu­ni­tion avail­able even for train­ing. The Min­is­ter has also de­clared that she will also hold meet­ings of the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil once ev­ery two weeks.

An of­fi­cial state­ment said on Mon­day, Septem­ber 11, 2017, that Sithara­man, who took charge on Septem­ber 7, 2017, has held a num­ber of meet­ings with se­nior of­fi­cials to fa­mil­iarise her­self with the ac­tiv­i­ties and func­tion­ing of the de­fence min­istry, and has is­sued “clear di­rec­tions” on “crit­i­cal is­sues”. As she took over last week she had said she would be a roundthe-clock De­fence Min­is­ter.

While we wel­come the dy­namic and no non­sense ap­proach of the new de­fence min­is­ter, and her no­ble in­ten­tions, how­ever at the strate­gic level, at which she is re­quired to func­tion, daily meet­ings may not be nec­es­sary. In the be­gin­ning, say for a few weeks, when she fa­mil­iarises her­self with the or­gan­i­sa­tional, func­tional and ad­min­is­tra­tive de­tails and the back log of cases re­lat­ing to pro­cure­ment and mod­erni­sa­tion of the three Ser­vices and other im­por­tant ad­min­is­tra­tive cases which may be pend­ing, daily meet­ings may prove use­ful but later on it will only lead to mi­cro man­age­ment of the Min­istry and the three Ser­vices which is not de­sir­able. More­over, the three Chiefs and the De­fence Sec­re­tary have their own func­tional re­quire­ments within their head­quar­ters to at­tend to whereby their daily sched­ules are tightly packed and they can ill af­ford to spend too much time for such con­fer­ences/meet­ings if they carry on for long hours. There­fore she will per­haps have to lay down an up­per time limit for such meet­ings. More­over the Chiefs as well as the De­fence Min­is­ter are re­quired to visit many op­er­a­tional sec­tors and op­er­a­tional for­ma­tions and other de­part­ments and es­tab­lish­ments within their re­spec­tive do­mains due to which they can­not be tied down to a daily rigid sched­ule.

The Min­istry of De­fence is a mam­moth min­istry with a very large num­ber of de­fence pub­lic sec­tor in­dus­trial units whose ef­fi­ciency and out­put is by and large un­sat­is­fac­tory. In the past our de­fence min­is­ters who have been guided by the civil­ian bureaucracy have not been able to en­sure, even af­ter 70 years of in­de­pen­dence, to give the na­tion a de­fence in­dus­trial com­plex ca­pa­ble of mak­ing us self suf­fi­cient for our weapons and equip­ment. All that our de­fence in­dus­try has achieved till date is that that they have im­ported equip­ment and as­sem­bled it in In­dia and called this trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. A de­plorable state of af­fairs to say the least.

Our Ord­nance fac­to­ries are leg­endary for their lethar­gic and poor work cul­ture and are re­spon­si­ble for poor state of am­mu­ni­tion re­serves in the coun­try. The Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Qual­ity As­sur­ance (DGQA) is an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion which is known more for its wrong prac­tices than its util­ity. Sim­i­larly the de­part­ments such as the Con­trol- lers of De­fence Ac­counts (CDAs) are again es­tab­lish­ments which have ex­panded man­i­fold but have a poor record of com­pe­tence not­with­stand­ing some is­lands of ef­fi­ciency. So per­haps these are ar­eas where the Min­is­ter should pay more at­ten­tion to be­cause they are ones who are re­quired to pro­vide the lo­gis­tics (equip­ment and mu­ni­tions) and are re­spon­si­ble for the good morale of the sol­diery.

The next point that should con­cern the Min­is­ter is the Min­istry it­self where the un­der­stand­ing of Na­tional Se­cu­rity of the bu­reau­crats in the min­istry is only from read­ing of the min­istry files! Let me quote Ad­mi­ral Arun Prakash, a former Naval Chief ’s ar­ti­cle in a na­tional daily of Septem­ber 13, 2017. He states “One has to start by fac­ing the un­palat­able truth that our cur­rent na­tional se­cu­rity dilem­mas are al­most en­tirely of our own mak­ing – a con­se­quence of po­lit­i­cal in­dif­fer­ence and bu­reau­cratic lethargy re­sult­ing in egre­gious ne­glect of our na­tional se­cu­rity. Pro­cras­ti­na­tion on de­fence re­forms and de­lays in bor­der roads con­struc­tions, dither­ing on pur­chase of arms and am­mu­ni­tion, and leav­ing the MoD head­less for months have all been per­ceived as signs of weak­ness and a lack of re­solve by our ad­ver­saries”.

As re­gards the pro­cure­ment is­sues it must be brought out that our uni­formed com­mu­nity and the se­nior hi­er­ar­chy of the Ser­vices, have to ac­cept their share of blame for the de­lays and the in­fe­rior state of our cur­rent equip­ment. Cases in point, in the army, are the cases in­volv­ing the pro­cure­ment of car­bines and as­sault ri­fles and the mess cre­ated in this re­gard. So while po­lit­i­cal in­dif­fer­ence and bu­reau­cratic lethargy may be re­spon­si­ble in the larger con­text, the se­nior hi­er­ar­chy of the Ser­vices must ac­cept their share of blame in many cases.

An irony pointed out by Ad­mi­ral Arun Prakash is the fact that ev­ery­thing is con­trolled by a cadre of bu­reau­crats who are quite ig­no­rant about mat­ters mil­i­tary. He points out that even Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions are de­pen­dent on fi­nan­cial, ma­te­rial, per­son­nel and in­fra­struc­ture sup­port — all of which re­quire ap­provals of the MoD bureaucracy. The fate of our mil­i­tary (and sur­vival of our na­tion) de­pend on a MoD which is run ex­clu­sively by civil­ian of­fi­cers of the IAS and In­dian De­fence Ac­counts Ser­vice (IDAS). This does not hap­pen in any other coun­try in the world and it is an irony that while we have one of the largest armed forces in the world, an un­in­formed bureaucracy han­dles the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Ad­mi­ral rec­om­mends re­struc­tur­ing of the de­fence in­dus­trial com­plex by re­puted pro­fes­sion­als from the busi­ness and in­dus­try and not sci­en­tists or gov­ern­ment bureaucracy who would only end up pro­tect­ing their turfs by adopt­ing a sta­tus quo ap­proach.

It is gen­er­ally ac­cepted by all mil­i­tary and strate­gic an­a­lysts that the time has come for the min­istry to be manned by a cadre of of­fi­cers who are skilled in the man­age­ment of na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues and in build­ing and es­tab­lish­ing mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This cadre can be drawn from the Ser­vices as well as the IAS of­fi­cers who are es­pe­cially trained in the man­age­ment of such is­sues.

So while the en­thu­si­asm of the De­fence Min­is­ter to in­ter­act with the Ser­vice Chiefs is most wel­come and is praise­wor­thy, how­ever we rec­om­mend that she should pay more at­ten­tion to the Depart­ment of De­fence Pro­duc­tion, the Ord­nance Fac­tory Board, DGQA, IDAS, DRDO and the re­forms that are nec­es­sary in these de­part­ments and in the Min­istry bureaucracy who at present are not en­tirely com­pe­tent to han­dle is­sues in­volv­ing na­tional se­cu­rity and mat­ters mil­i­tary.

The fate of our mil­i­tary (and sur­vival of our na­tion) de­pend on a MoD which is run ex­clu­sively by civil­ian of­fi­cers of the IAS and In­dian De­fence Ac­counts Ser­vice (IDAS)

PHO­TO­GRAPH: In­dian Army

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