Light be­yond the tun­nel


The De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) 2013 is a breath of fresh air, open­ing to the pri­vate sec­tor af­ter decades of suf­fo­cat­ing con­fine­ment in the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO)PSUs soli­tary cell. Our de­fence-in­dus­trial com­plex has de­gen­er­ated to such an ex­tent that 77 per cent of de­fence equip­ment is im­ported and even as­sault ri­fles and car­bines have to be im­ported. It is not that the Army is try­ing to be fan­ci­ful, as some peo­ple think.

The Cen­tral Re­serve Po­lice Force (CRPF) per­son­nel sup­port­ing Is­raeli X-95 car­bines are vis­i­ble in Jammu and Kash­mir. The Bor­der Se­cu­rity Force (BSF) has signed a con­tract with Italy’s Beretta for buy­ing 68,000 sub­ma­chine guns worth over ` 400 crore. Ear­lier, the CRPF had signed for pur­chase of 12,000 X-95 Ta­vor car­bines from Is­rael cost­ing over ` 1 lakh apiece. Force One of the Ma­ha­rash­tra Po­lice, cre­ated post-26/11, is armed with Colt M-4 car­bines from the United States, Brug­ger and Thomet sub­ma­chine guns from Switzer­land, MP-5 sub­ma­chine guns from Ger­many and AK-47 vari­ants from eastern Europe.

Why the se­cu­rity forces are re­sort­ing to im­ports is sim­ply be­cause the in­dige­nous weapons are sub­stan­dard and one can­not have a sit­u­a­tion where the ter­ror­ists and in­sur­gents have bet­ter arms. That we are un­able to pro­duce state-of-the-art in­di­vid­ual small arms should be a mat­ter of shame. Hope­fully, we will make bet­ter weaponry by fol­low­ing the pri­vatis­ing route with the Fi­nance Min­is­ter hint­ing like­li­hood of more FDI in de­fence sec­tor. Com­ing back to DPP 2013, it still needs to be re­fined fur­ther to specif­i­cally ad­dress the re­quire­ments of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems as the pro­ce­dures are so ex­tended that tech­nol­ogy will get out­dated by the time th­ese are fielded.

The delays are pri­mar­ily be­cause of the DRDOPSUs in­ad­e­quate ca­pac­i­ties and in or­der to buy time, stonewalling pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion. The pro­ject to re-en­er­gise the Army Strate­gic Op­er­a­tional In­for­ma­tion Dis­sem­i­na­tion Sys­tem (ASTROIDS) be­ing de­vel­oped by the In­sti­tute of Sys­tem Study and Anal­y­sis (ISSA) un­der DRDO since 2006 has per­force been fore­closed now be­cause ISSA could not de­liver on the re­quire­ment de­spite delays of so many years.

The projects of the bat­tle­field sur­veil­lance sys­tem (BSS) and the com­mand in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion sys­tem (CIDS) be­ing han­dled by the Bharat Elec­tron­ics Limited (BEL) are pro­ceed­ing at ex­cru­ci­at­ing slow pace. The fact is that both the DRDO and PSUs have limited in-house ca­pa­bil­ity and re­sort to out­sourc­ing to pri­vate sec­tor most of the time. Even the Cen­tre for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and Ro­bot­ics (CAIR) un­der DRDO ad­mits it is not a de­vel­oper. The cur­rent stip­u­la­tion that se­cu­rity so­lu­tions of con­fi­den­tial and above clas­si­fi­ca­tion can be de­vel­oped only by CAIR is ridicu­lous con­sid­er­ing CAIR is ac­tu­ally out­sourc­ing de­vel­op­ment of such se­cu­rity so­lu­tions.

The an­swer lies in mak­ing all the In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) in­ten­sive projects as ‘Make’ projects with full pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion. Then is the crying need to sim­plify and shorten the ‘Make Pro­ce­dure’. It would be pru­dent for MoD to add such pro­vi­sions as an ad­den­dum to DPP 2013 or at least in­cor­po­rate them in DPP 2014. Go­ing by past ex­pe­ri­ence, fu­ture ICT projects like the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem (TCS), BMS and reen­er­gis­ing ASTROIDS should have ‘full’ pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion.

It is equally im­por­tant for the govern­ment to over­haul the DRDO, Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB) and PSUs, ush­er­ing true ac­count­abil­ity, make them more fo­cused and give clear di­rec­tions of what is re­quired to be done by them lay­ing down strict time­lines. A sys­tem of roll on de­vel­op­ment, mon­i­tor­ing, pe­ri­odic checks, feed­back and mid­course cor­rec­tions needs to be in­sti­tuted. Govern­ment must spell out a Weapons, Equip­ment and Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment (WETD) roadmap on a 10-, 15-, 20-year ba­sis and make R&D al­lo­ca­tions ac­cord­ingly group­ing DRDO-PSUs and pri­vate sec­tor. This roadmap must in­clude spe­cific plans and mea­sures to be adopted for leapfrog­ging tech­nol­ogy. Govern­ment ac­tu­ally needs to take a call and bi­fur­cate what should be de­vel­oped by the pri­vate sec­tor and what should be by DRDO-PSUs in or­der to give the re­quired im­pe­tus to fo­cused de­fence pro­duc­tion.


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