Full Fi­nan­cial Pow­ers to Vice-Chief of the Army Staff to Main­tain Com­bat-Readi­ness

Con­sid­er­ing the pre­vail­ing threats across the Line of Con­trol (LoC) against Pak­istan and the Line of Actual Con­trol (LAC) against China, the Gov­ern­ment has fi­nally wo­ken up and ex­tended full fi­nan­cial pow­ers to the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) to main


Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

IN RE­CENT TIMES AVAIL­ABIL­ITY of am­mu­ni­tion has been a mat­ter of great con­cern be­cause the short­ages take time to be re­plen­ished and the pro­ce­dure for the same is quite lengthy due to lim­ited fi­nan­cial pow­ers given to the army for pro­cure­ments through rev­enue bud­get. This had led to a sit­u­a­tion where the am­mu­ni­tion re­serves of the army had dwin­dled alarm­ingly and even train­ing am­mu­ni­tion had to be cur­tailed thus af­fect­ing sol­diers train­ing. Such a sit­u­a­tion if it con­tin­ues for a longer du­ra­tion then a back­log is built up due to which the an­nual rev­enue bud­get for pro­cure­ment of mu­ni­tions is not enough to cater for the cur­rent years re­quire­ments as well as the de­fi­cien­cies built up over a pe­riod of time. It im­plies that a short fall in one par­tic­u­lar year has a mul­ti­ply­ing ef­fect in the next year and if the de­fi­cien­cies per­sist year af­ter year then the short fall af­fects the avail­abil­ity of war wastage re­serves which im­pact the fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the armed forces.

In In­dia, since in­de­pen­dence, the con­cept and avail­abil­ity of war wastage re­serves, called WWR, has al­ways been cal­cu­lated at 30:30 i.e. thirty days in­tense rate and 30 days nor­mal rate of con­sump­tion dur­ing war. How­ever over a pe­riod of time this fig­ure was re­duced to 20:20 and now as per me­dia re­ports this fig­ure has been re­duced fur­ther. Not­with­stand­ing the fig­ure (ra­tio), what­ever it may be, ev­ery year a fair quan­tity of am­mu­ni­tion is also used up for train­ing of this one mil­lion strong army which in­cludes, tank am­mu­ni­tion, ar­tillery, air de­fence ar­tillery and small arms am­mu­ni­tion and var­i­ous cat­e­gories of mis­siles both ground to air and the anti tank va­ri­ety. In past the Min­istry of de­fence has never able to meet the re­quire­ments of the army fully and the de­fence bud­get could not make up the short­fall thus a Catch-22 sit­u­a­tion de­vel­oped. This is the rea­son that con­sid­er­ing the pre­vail­ing threats across the Line of Con­trol (LoC) against Pak­istan and the Line of Actual Con­trol (LAC) against China that the Gov­ern­ment has fi­nally wo­ken up to its own weak­nesses and ex­tended full fi­nan­cial pow­ers to the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) to main­tain ad­e­quate stock­piles and com­bat readi­ness for “short and in­tense wars”.

The cease fire vi­o­la­tions on the LoC, the ter­ror­ist chal­lenge in the border ar­eas, and the over­all threats and chal­lenges per­ceived have been in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing about this change. Af­ter the Uri at­tack in Septem­ber 2016, where the army lost 20 sol­diers, it was re­ported by the me­dia, that the armed forces had signed emer­gency deals worth over 20,000 crore — pri­mar­ily with Rus­sia, Is­rael and France to en­sure that the forces (war­ships, fighter air­craft, tanks and ar­tillery etc) could un­der­take at least 10 days of “in­tense fight­ing” with­out wor­ry­ing about am­mu­ni­tion and other re­serves.

The present gov­ern­ment had set up em­pow­ered pro­cure­ment com­mit­tees un­der the Army, Navy and In­dian Air Force Vice-Chiefs with emer­gency rev­enue fi­nan­cial pow­ers to “make up de­fi­cien­cies and op­er­a­tional voids” by ink­ing deals over a three-month pe­riod at a time. As per me­dia re­ports the Army, on its part, had iden­ti­fied 22 ar­ma­ments, 46 dif­fer­ent types of am­mu­ni­tion, half a dozen types of mines as well as spares for 10 weapons sys­tems rang­ing from tanks to ar­tillery guns as “crit­i­cal re­quire­ments”, which to­gether would cost 35,000 to 40,000 crore.

The Armed Forces have al­ready inked 19 con­tracts worth 12,000 crore, which in­cludes 11 kinds of am­mu­ni­tion since then. Out of 19 con­tracts, 10 con­tracts are with Rus­sian com­pa­nies for sup­ply of en­gines, anti-tank guided mis­siles and Smerch rock­ets. Some re­ports sug­gest that the armed forces are sat­is­fied with these fast­track pro­ce­dures to en­sure avail­abil­ity and ser­vice­abil­ity of ex­ist­ing weapon sys­tems and plat­forms. It has been re­ported that the Comptroller Au­di­tor Gen­eral of In­dia had also taken a note of this alarm­ing state of af­fairs in a re­port tabled in Par­lia­ment.

This de­vel­op­ment of ex­tend­ing full fi­nan­cial pow­ers to the Vice Chief of the Army staff is a step in the right di­rec­tion be­cause it will now give the army the much needed flex­i­bil­ity of be­ing able to pro­cure the vi­tally needed am­mu­ni­tion through rev­enue bud­get with­out wait­ing for clear­ances through the nor­mal chain of pro­cure­ment. This will also put the onus on the army for any short­fall in any cat­e­gory of crit­i­cally de­fi­cient am­mu­ni­tion for want of which our op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity is im­paired. How­ever these fi­nan­cial pow­ers alone do not solve the over­all prob­lem of a fight­ing force which is con­stantly de­ployed for op­er­a­tions. The de­fence bud­get must be ad­e­quate so as to ex­er­cise these pow­ers. More­over such pow­ers of fast track­ing the pro­cure­ment must ex­ist with the army for pro­cure­ment of a va­ri­ety of smaller weapons and equip­ment whose re­quire­ment is small in num­bers such as night vi­sion aids, elec­tronic sur­veil­lance and sight­ing de­vices, spe­cial­ist weapons such as sniper ri­fles and spe­cial­ist ve­hi­cles for the spe­cial forces and anti ma­te­rial ri­fles whose re­quire­ment is in lim­ited num­bers. We need not wait for years to­gether to pro­cure them.


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