The existing higher defence management system of the country continues to be unresponsive and indifferent to the needs of the armed forces and the material state of the military and its operational state remains far from satisfactory. Our modernisation programme suffers from inordinate delays and the goal of self-reliance remains a distant dream. The root cause for this state of affairs is lack of accountability of the political leadership who enjoy all the powers and absence of the military from the decision loop of the security related issues. The indifferent civil -military relations and the poor institutional values are a matter of concern. The various studies on military reforms and their recommendations remain unimplemented. The government needs to move quickly and take some difficult decisions to put the national security issues on track.
Integration of the Service HQs with the MOD is part of the approved reforms by the GOM 2001, subsequent the Kargil Review Report ,already notified by the Government on 23 May 2002 for implementation. The intention of this reform was to enable the SHQ to participate in the decision making and policy implementation at all levels of governance. However, on the ground little has changed except the nomenclature. The purpose of Higher Defence Organisation, as we know, is to evolve a national security strategy for near, middle and long terms perspective, after examining threats and opportunities, thereafter enable employing the total national power to achieve national aims . The Higher Defence Organisation(HDO), should therefore enable the following--
(a) Formulating a Joint doctrine, long term perspective plans for force levels, equipment procurements and technology acquisitions.
(b) Developing medium and long term strategy for national defence for all the spectrums of war.
(c) Providing the command structure to enable the political leadership to exercise control over the nuclear weapons and the strategic forces.
(d) Ensuring a close interface between the uniformed fraternity, civil bureaucracy and the political leadership to expedite the politico-military decision making.
2. The question we need to examine is whether the stated objectives of the HDO are being achieved or not. Has the integration of the SHQ as on now, made any difference? We need to briefly examine the entire issue and the background, before passing a judgement. The erstwhile Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) chaired by the PM, and Defence Ministers Committee chaired by the RM, which were in vogue till late fifties used to provide an integrated decision making and the higher defence control Organisation (HDO). However in 1962, these established institutions were bypassed by the PM/ RM, relying on select individuals for the defence management and direction. Even the then JIC which was a joint mechanism for intelligence assessment became defunct and the Director IB became the sole advisor to the PM. In the absence of DCC, a committee of secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary was formed to make recommendations to the PM, which has served as the Strategic Planning Group (SPG) till today. The Service HQ over a time were reduced to adjuncts of the MOD, which operated as another “tier” between the SHQ and the Minister and were also placed completely outside the ministry, which they could approach through the medium of files. The Armed forces feel that their administrative powers have been steadily eroded and they had to live with a dysfunctional system. Admiral DK Joshi, former Naval Chief, who had resigned, after a number of accidents on naval platforms, due to sheer frustrations on his inability to get the necessary response from the MOD for prompt repairs and essential spares. In his candid observations, he has noted the institutional flaws in the higher defence management system, wherein professional competence, expertise, accountability, responsibility, and authority reside in different spheres or compartments. While professional competence, accountability and the responsibility is with the Service HQ, the authority to approve or sanction or empowerment to obtain something is with the MOD. Thus we have a situation where the service HQ have all the responsibility without the corresponding authority, whereas all the powers and authority rests with the MOD without any accountability. Thus, the politicians and the civil officials enjoy power without any accountability and the military assumes the responsibility with out any, commitment or guidance from the political authorities. It is obvious that the long over due reforms ,in the higher defence management, except a few peripheral ones have not been implemented due to vested interests. The two substantive recommendations of creating a CDS and integrating the SHQ with the MOD have been left out ,despite the repeatedly recommended reforms by the various committees. The Kargil Review Committee and the GOM made substantial recommendations for reforming the National Security system in Feb 2001. Some of the major reforms recommended were as under--
(a) SHQ to be designated as -”integrated HQ of the MOD'' instead of ''attached offices”, so as to be able to participate in decision making and policy formulation.
(b) Financial powers and Administrative authority to be delegated to the SHQ and lower formations to expedite decision making.
(c) As the present COSC was not found effective, a permanent institution of a CDS was approved,which could provide single point military advice to the Government, prioritise the inter-service proposals, provide the joint-ness to the armed forces in planning for operations, surveillance, maritime security and the targeting philosophy. The CDS would also command and administer the nuclear and the strategic forces, besides the other unified commands.
(d) To expedite the procurement process, a new procurement structure, with a Defence Acquisition Council, under the RM, along with a defence procurement board, a defence production board and a defence R&D board were to be established under the respective secretaries, with suitable representation from the services, along with the integrated finance. This reform has been carried out, except that the system is being operated by officials who are not specialists in this field and have the same traditional attitude of fixed minds. The modernisation of the armed forces has not been satisfactory and the decision process continues to be slow.
3. As we are aware the GOM recommendations have only been partially implemented and the more substantive ones like the creation of the CDS and Integration of the SHQ with the MOD have been left out. The recently appointed “Naresh Chandra Committee' has also re-emphasised the military reforms, although these have not been put in the public domain. It is Understood that the CDS has been recommended to be modified as the permanent COSC, in this report, which would be rotational between the Services and the report also recommends creation of a special forces command and the aerospace command, besides examining other aspects pertaining to cyber warfare, indigenisation of defence equipment, self-reliance, DRDO and the management of other defence assets.
4. So far as the integration of the SHQ with the MOD is concerned the government had issued a notification as early as 23May 2002 designating the SHQ as the integrated departments of the MOD and also set up a Chief of integrated defence staff(CIDS) with officials from the three services. This has not brought about any real integration and is only peripheral change. The integration with the MOD implies the basic change in the overall concept of functioning as a team together rather then a “tier” in between the two. It would also imply, cross- posting of defence officers to the MOD and of the civil officials to the selected departments of the SHQ, to evolve and implement integrated plans, after joint evaluation to ensure speedy decision making and reduce wasteful duplication and the delays. However, this has not happened due to mistrust, turf wars and reasons of the cadre management. In fact, the civilian officials who come to the MOD have no first hand knowledge or any military experience. To overcome this the GOM 2001, had approved ,the ''Vohra Committee'' recommendation creating a dedicated pool of trained officers drawn from various streams, who would be permanently seconded in the security management arena. This pool of officers would consist of officials drawn from 'All India Services ' and the technocrats., however this has remained in cold storage.
5 The integration of the SHQ and the MOD, does not mean occupying each others “space” or diluting the importance of the civil officials, but enable teamwork and joint-ness at all levels in evolving solutions for manpower planning, development of weapon systems, procurement of military equipment and setting up infrastructure, logistics management and transportation as being practised in most of the modern militaries. The integration would entail shared responsibility and avoid duplication and wastages even with OFB, DPSUs and the DRDO. There have been instances, which I am aware off, where due to the lack of coordination in the MOD, the same equipment has been purchased by the three services from the same country at different prices i.e. “Searcher”& “Heron” UAVs from Israel. But the problem is the reluctance of the officials of the government to share their powers and protect the exclusive turf. Since the Civilian officials deal directly with the politicians on a daily basis, the politicians also feel comfortable in consulting them, leaving the services out of the loop except in a crisis situation. Another aspect that needs examination is the staffing of the entire security management apparatus i.e. the NSA Sectt. IDS and the CDS by a pool of dedicated cadre officers from the civilian stream and the three Services, whether on a tenure basis or by an integrated cadre. HQ IDS has had considerable experience in the joint -ness within the three services and are ideally placed to identify the specifics for enlarging the examination to suggesting staffing norms for the entire security management apparatus.
6. The integration of the services with the MOD would enable developing joint responsibility for national security instead of engaging in blame games, as experienced during the Kargil operations of which I have the personal experience. Initially it was the intelligence failure with every agency blaming the other and no institutional collective intelligence analysis, followed by the issue of air photos and the satellite imagery. Even the credible “leads” available were not followed up by the IB or shared with each other except in a routine manner. In the operational planning there was absence of agreement on the use of air power and the enlargement of the area of operations beyond the Kargil-Dras-Batalik sectors of the intrusion. The government was indecisive as no institutional 'war gaming' and strategic appreciation had been conducted in the absence of a CDS. The Army was asked to remove the intrusion, without enlarging the area of operations .Permission to use the Air power was approved on the 25 May good two weeks later, as there were differences in the perceptions of the services. The institution of the CDS and an integrated MOD would have enabled a speedier and more balanced response. The equipment of the defence forces was not as per the scaling as the procurement procedures were slow and cumbersome resulting in operational voids. The country was unprepared for a full-scale war with vital shortages in the critical ammunition and the weapons. Frantic efforts were made by the government to obtain the equipment and the ammunition by imports, however, most of the contracts finalised remained in the pipeline, as there is a minimum lead time for defence equipment as these are not available off the shelf. One of the reforms of the Kargil war regarding establishing a Defence Acquisition Cell and the procurement apparatus has been implemented and has brought about integration and speedier decision making, though there are implementation flaws in the system. The procurement board under the Defence Secretary has technical managers of Maj Gen rank from the three services, along with the IFA, who operate as a team, and this is a fine example of integration of SHQ with the MOD and could easily become the model for the rest. The DGQA and the Directorate of standardisation are other examples of integration, which could be tried out in the OFB, DPSUs and the DRDO and the MOD, if there is the political will to do so. The DIA is today staffed by the officers of only the three services, with no representative from the IB and the RA&W, making the intelligence gathering incomplete, although there are the interactive meetings of all the intelligence agencies at the'' multi agency centre''. The directorates of NCC, TA and the logistics management wings of the services also lend for integrated functioning, rather than the layered functioning with the MOD.
7. Lack of integration manifests in the management of the DPSUs, and the OFB. The HAL with its nine divisions is the biggest DPSU and is virtually sustained by the IAF budgetary support , due to assembly and manufacture of the various aircrafts, as its exports are less than 3% of its production. The need for joint-ness and planning for aircraft design and development with the IAF is obvious, yet, the MOD in its wisdom has still not included IAF's Head of Engineering and Maintenance to the HAL Board. The same logic applies to the Naval dockyards, the tank and the BMP factories, the missile manufacturing plants, the EW warfare establishments like the BDL, BEML BEL, ARDE, where service officers as the users need to be posted. In fact the integration has to be extended to all the wings of the Department of Defence production. The specifics can be worked out by a study. In the UK and some other countries, they function with the concept of forming integrated project teams of professionals of various disciplines for development and production of the equipment systems, as we have done for the Brahmos missile system. In the UK the scientific laboratories are not with the DRDO but are part of the production agencies. In France they have the General department of Armament(GDA), directly under the minister consisting of the professionals from various disciplines for development, production and induction of defence equipment in the armed forces.
8. The nuclear weapons further highlight the need for integration between the military, and the civil as the “delivery systems' are held and operated by the Services and the “warheads' are held by the DRDO and the decision making is by the government. For exercising the nuclear option many inputs are required from the various stake holders. Similarly the defence communications need to be integrated. There is a need to make tangible progress in the integration of the MOD and the military in many fields such as training, Air defence, common user items of UAVs, helicopters and human resource management and the logistics management. It is therefore, imperative that the Reforms recommended by the Kargil Committee Report are dusted out and implemented fully.