pensions are paid through the defence budget, leaving that much less money for military modernisation. But allotment apart, there are other aspects about the defence budget that appear to be given short shrift advertently or inadvertently, former being more likely.
To start with, how do you work out a 15-year span LTIPP without a National Security Strategy followed by a Comprehensive Defence Review, and ironically the present government too has made no move to initiate these. In the US, a Congressional Committee is formed to which all Theatre Commanders and Commander Special Operations Command (SOCOM) make pre-budget presentation making their projections for the next defence budget. Their presentations cover what their present capabilities are and given allotment as per funds requested what their future capability would be. Why can’t we have a similar system?
Surely, from the Parliament you can pick and choose requisite number of parliamentarians including defence veterans to form such committees, notwithstanding the fact that in the past we have had the Parliamentary Committee on Defence even headed by a film star and disinterested members who have little idea about matters military. Leaking of the letter from General V.K. Singh (then Chief of Army Staff) to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created massive stink but with focused more on how it got leaked rather than the massive shortages. Little would public know that such letters have been written by many service chiefs as well as the Chairmen Chiefs of Staff Committee in the past. Yet the voids were permitted to grow because of vested interests that capitalise on creating criticalities and then capitalising on imports for individual or collective benefits of the vested interest of a select group. It is this group that would not permit induction of military professionals into the MoD and as users in DRDO-DPSUs-OF other that odd perfunctory post whereas the need is for them to be in the planning/design, management, policy formulation and decision making levels.
A former Vice Chief of Army Staff, who had a close friend in MoD (Finance), was told by the latter that they have to give a quarterly report as to how much money ‘can’ possibly be surrendered from the defence budget, MoD being the only Ministry that has been surrendering funds barring odd year when complete funds were utilized perhaps on account of uproar over the issue in the media. Jaswant Singh, when Defence Minister, had mooted the idea of carry forward of unspent defence budget to the next financial year but the idea was given the quiet burial for reasons that can be well understood. In the present defence budget, some ` 98,000 crore were assigned to capital expenditure. As per information emanating from some quarters about ` 12,000 crore may get surrendered by design. The vested group is well versed in how to orchestrate all this, late allotment through revised estimates stage and pussyfooting files included, putting all the blame conveniently on the military. It will be another sad day for the Indian military. Well the end of the financial year is still far off. Hopefully the Defence Minister will look at all the issues mentioned herein.