Army Com­bat Capabilities Cur­tailed de­spite Alarm­ing Se­cu­rity Chal­lenges

The stand­ing Com­mit­tee noted that al­lo­ca­tions made for the Ser­vices are “not sup­port­ive to the in­evitable needs of the Army, with “huge de­fi­cien­cies and ob­so­les­cence of weapons, stores and am­mu­ni­tion ex­ist­ing in In­dian Army”.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd)

The stand­ing Com­mit­tee noted that al­lo­ca­tions made for the Ser­vices are “not sup­port­ive to the in­evitable needs of the Army, with “huge de­fi­cien­cies and ob­so­les­cence of weapons, stores and am­mu­ni­tion ex­ist­ing in In­dian Army”.

THE PUBLIC WAS SHOCKED to read me­dia head­lines on March 14 like ‘DEATH BY BUD­GET: Is This In­dian Army’s An­gri­est Re­port to the Gov­ern­ment?’, re­fer­ring to the 41st re­port by the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence pre­sented to Par­lia­ment on March 13, 2018, which lam­basted the gov­ern­ment for in­ad­e­quate de­fence bud­get al­lo­ca­tions. The news re­port brought out reasons why Army is dis­traught: 21,338 crore for mod­erni­sa­tion in­suf­fi­cient to cater for 29,033 crore com­mit­ted pay­ment of for 125 on-go­ing schemes, emer­gency pro­cure­ments, 10-days in­tense fight­ing ammo and other DGOF re­quire­ments; 4.5 per cent in­crease in rev­enue al­lo­ca­tion con­sumed in 7th CPC im­ple­men­ta­tion; bal­ance over just 3 per cent doesn’t even cater for in­fla­tion – ad­versely af­fect­ing rou­tine main­te­nance, emer­gency pro­cure­ments and am­mu­ni­tion for war; ad­di­tional bur­den of 5,000 crore on ac­count GST not catered; some on-go­ing schemes may have to be fore­closed and no money for 23 new schemes; MoD del­e­gated financial pow­ers to VCOAS and sanc­tioned

1487 crore for beef­ing se­cu­rity of camps and posts but no sep­a­rate bud­get al­lot­ted; even with repri­ori­tis­ing to­tal short­fall 21,578 crore ( 12,296 crore for cap­i­tal and 9,82 crore for rev­enue).

In­dict­ment by Par­lia­ment’s Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence

The Stand­ing Com­mit­tee in­dicted the gov­ern­ment on all the above-men­tioned is­sues (part of Army’s 13-page in­put), the most scathing ob­ser­va­tions with re­spect to Army’s equip­ment being: 68 per cent is vin­tage; about 24 per cent cur­rent, and; only 8 per cent state-of-the-art. The stand­ing Com­mit­tee noted that al­lo­ca­tions made for the Ser­vices are “not sup­port­ive to the in­evitable needs of the Army, with “huge de­fi­cien­cies and ob­so­les­cence of weapons, stores and am­mu­ni­tion ex­ist­ing in In­dian Army”. The Com­mit­tee also pointed out that 2.84 per cent in the Navy’s bud­get would not even cater to in­fla­tion­ary pres­sure-main­tain­ing req­ui­site ar­ma­ment level and emer­gency pro­cure­ments would re­quire more funds, and; short­fall of 6,440 crore in rev­enue bud­get of the In­dian Air Force is likely to im­pact op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness, abil­ity to pro­cure spares and fuel, apart from leav­ing gaps in train­ing pro­gram, ser­vice­abil­ity of older sys­tems and pro­vi­sion of ba­sic ameni­ties to Air Force per­son­nel.

Pe­ri­odi In­dict­ments

This is not the first time the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee has in­dicted the gov­ern­ment. The Com­mit­tee has been putting forth the state of af­fairs pe­ri­od­i­cally. In its re­port tabled in Par­lia­ment on March 9, 2017, it had slammed Gov­ern­ment for its ad­ho­cism, ca­sual and lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach say­ing it would ad­versely af­fect the coun­try’s de­fence pre­pared­ness as well as morale of armed forces. High­lights of this re­port in­cluded: in terms of mod­erni­sa­tion demands for FY 2017-2018, Army, Navy, and Air Force have only re­ceived 60 per cent, 67 per cent and 54 per cent re­spec­tively; only 86,488 crore ear­marked for mod­ern­iza­tion from the to­tal de­fence out­lay of 2,74,000 crore – what makes mat­ters worse is bulk of this cap­i­tal will be used to pay “com­mit­ted li­a­bil­i­ties” of ear­lier arms con­tracts in­stead of new projects. The Com­mit­tee asked the gov­ern­ment to al­lo­cate ad­di­tional 13,000 crore for de­fence in the cur­rent financial year end­ing Marh 31, 2018, but noth­ing has been al­lot­ted.

Crit­ics on So­cial Me­dia

There is crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia why the Army is crib­bing now and why such is­sues not raised dur­ing the UPA II. But the po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy and MoD bu­reau­crats are fully ap­prised of the crit­i­cal­i­ties through pe­ri­odic writ­ten re­ports, in ad­di­tion to brief­ings dur­ing the Uni­fied Com­man­der and Army Com­man­der-level con­fer­ences ev­ery six months. Gen­eral V.K. Singh, then Army Chief ’s let­ter Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh in 2012 de­scribed crit­i­cal voids of Army? V.K. Singh was not the only Ser­vice Chief who wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter, many oth­ers did sim­i­larly. Nei­ther V.K. Singh’s let­ter nor cur­rent in­puts to the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee was given to the me­dia by the Army. But who would know bet­ter than the present De­fence Min­is­ter in her for­mer avatar as MoS (Com­merce and In­dus­try) with web­site of the Min­istry of Com­merce and In­dus­try show­ing till late 2016 that 50 per cent of In­dian Mil­i­tary de­fence equip­ment hold­ings were ‘ob­so­lete’.

Neg­a­tive De­fence Bud­gets

De­fence Bud­get for 2018-2019 at 1.58 per cent of GDP is the low­est since 1962. The pur­ported in­crease over pre­vi­ous year in all bud­gets un­der NDA II have been ‘neg­a­tive’ in ac­tual terms with­out catering for in­fla­tion and above­men­tioned as­so­ci­ated is­sues. It may be re­called that de­fence al­lo­ca­tion for FY 2015-2016 and FY 2016-2017 were same 2,46,727 crore. Me­dia was quick in call­ing the al­lot­ment of 2,74,114 crore for FY 2017-2018 as a 6.2 per cent hike. But it was naïve to not view this de­fence al­lo­ca­tion in back­drop of the ru­pee de­pre­ci­a­tion and yearly in­fla­tion rates of de­fence pro­cure­ment. It may be noted that de­fence al­lo­ca­tion of 2,46,727 crore in fis­cal 2015-2016 also stood at $40 bil­lion, while 2,46,727 crore in last fis­cal (2016-2017) went be­low $40 bil­lion in ac­tual terms. As to sur­ren­der of funds, re­form an­nounced ‘Roll On’ plan for fresh ac­qui­si­tions to over­come ‘sur­ren­der­ing’ funds at the end of ev­ery FY is mis­nomer, as it still leaves loop­holes.

Rel­e­vance of Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence and De­bat­ing De­fence Al­lo­ca­tions

The Chair­man of the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence, Gen­eral Khan­duri is from BJP, but it is an All Party Com­mit­tee, which needs to be taken se­ri­ously. There were some se­ri­ous TV de­bates on evening of March 13, where gov­ern­ment was rep­re­sented by young spokesper­son try­ing to de­fend de­fence al­lo­ca­tions sheep­ishly. It would be ap­pro­pri­ate for the De­fence Sec­re­tary and Fi­nance Min­is­ter to jus­tify re­cur­ring poor de­fence al­lo­ca­tions. The Fi­nance Min­is­ter has been ar­bi­trar­ily cap­ping de­fence bud­get pro­jec­tions, with­out con­sid­er­ing op­er­a­tional im­per­a­tivs, as pointed out by Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on ear­lier oc­ca­sion. The De­fence Sec­re­tary (not De­fence Min­is­ter) con­tin­ues to be charged with de­fence of In­dia un­der Al­lo­ca­tion of Busi­ness & Trans­ac­tion Rules Act 1961, which has not been changed for du­bi­ous reasons.

Why Poorly Equipped Armed Forces?

Not only is the MoD with­out any mil­i­tary pro­fes­sion­als, an in­ter­nal in­quiry in MoD found: ‘Make in In­dia’ floun­der­ing, en­tire weapons ac­qui­si­tions process badly bro­ken and be­set with huge de­lays, with only 8-10 per cent of 144 pro­posed deals in the last three FY fruc­ti­fied within the stip­u­lated time pe­ri­ods; av­er­age time taken by 133 schemes 52 months (more than twice the laid-down time-frame) and av­er­age time taken to clear files “120 weeks” (2.3 years) against stip­u­lated 37 weeks by MoD in 2016. This was part of pre­sen­ta­tion by Dr Sub­hash Bhamre, MoS (De­fence) to Prime Min­is­ter Modi in end 2017. The pre­sen­ta­tion pointed out: ten­dency to find faults rather than fa­cil­i­tate process; en­tire ‘Make in In­dia’ pol­icy in de­fence pro­duc­tion sec­tor con­tin­ues to lan­guish due pro­ce­dural de­lays, with­out tak­ing off in any con­crete man­ner; arms pro­cure­ment process dogged by mul­ti­ple and dif­fused struc­tures with­out sin­gle-point ac­count­abil­ity, du­pli­ca­tion of pro­cesses, avoid­able re­dun­dant lay­ers do­ing the same thing again and again, de­layed ex­e­cu­tion, no real-time mon­i­tor­ing and no project-based ap­proach.

Dr Bhamre’s pre­sen­ta­tion also con­tended more than a year af­ter the new

DRDO’s fo­cus should be fu­ture tech­nolo­gies but in­stead is on com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion

PHO­TO­GRAPH: In­dian Army

In­dian Army sol­diers on Si­achen Glacier

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