The vintage setup now needs a revamp

Brig IS Gakhal (Retd)
Monday, 11 March 2019

The surgical strike-2 and the Pakistani response has highlighted the need for a quickened real-time response set up as against the existing vintage setup. The present set up where the Ministry of Defence, staffed as it is, be professional bureaucrats who have little or no operational experience sitting in judgement over professional commanders who are responsible for the execution of operations.

The other aspect is that the political masters do not have the benefit of one point professional advice and have to rely on the three service chiefs in their individual capacities.

The surgical strike-2 and the Pakistani response has highlighted the need for a quickened real-time response set up as against the existing vintage setup. The present set up where the Ministry of Defence, staffed as it is, be professional bureaucrats who have little or no operational experience sitting in judgement over professional commanders who are responsible for the execution of operations.

The other aspect is that the political masters do not have the benefit of one point professional advice and have to rely on the three service chiefs in their individual capacities.

In the present lacunae, Nirmala Sitharaman as the Defence Minister is a political appointment. Her experience in matters of military operation and administration are rudimentary. The same can be said for the Defence Secretary and his bureaucratic juniors. One or even two tenures in the Ministry of Defence cannot be considered operational experience. Similarly, the entire staffing of the Ministry of Defence over the years has grown in proportion and lathery. Operational matters move at snail’s pace with no sense of urgency. The same can be gauged from the tardy acquisition and pending operational and admin proposals of the three services. So much so that a department created for the welfare of ex-servicemen has no representative from that community.

RE-MODELLED MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
The political control will remain with the defence minister and minister of state for defence. The nucleus Ministry of Defence staff will undoubtedly be from the Ministry of Defence cadre. The current strength of the Ministry of Defence staff to be pruned to one-tenth. It would act as an administrative link between Government of India and the three services. The financial savings that accrue from the downsizing of the Ministry of Defence be utilised for a capital budget of the three services.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would be the one point operational advisor to the prime minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security. The CDS will head and control all assets of the three services. The Three service chiefs would be reporting to the CDS. The current integrated headquarter will become the staff headquarter of the CDS.

THEATRE COMMANDS
For the system to meet the operational needs of the times, the current commands of the three services will need to be revamped into theatre commands. These commands would be threat based amalgamation of three service resources under the Theatre Commander.

The Surgical Strike and the muted Pakistani response took a lot of initial planning, being proactive we were able to foresee and carter for the response. This may not always be the case. The Army Resources were working separately as were the IAF. This duplication will never happen once the CDS and Theatre Commands are established.

ADVANTAGES OF RE-MODELLED MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
- Authority and responsibility vested in the same office, unlike earlier where the Ministry of Defence had all the authority and no responsibility.
- Quick real-time operational reactions.
- The economy in resource utilisation.
- Need-based budgetary control, well coordinated and with professional considerations.
- Operational need-based acquisitions.
- More inter-service coordination and eradication of duplication of effort/resource utilisation.
- Overall financial saving will result for well-coordinated tri-service effort.

(Brig IS Gakhal (Retd) is a former Sector Commander of the Rashtriya Rifles and Commandant of the Sikh Regimental Centre)

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