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the requirements of information and communication systems as the procedures are so extended that technology will get outdated by the time these are fielded.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.
LT GENERAL (RETD) P.C. KATOCH