Military & Aerospace

Integrated Theatre Commands
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Issue Vol. 28.3 Jul-Sep 2013 | Date : 15 Oct , 2013

Jointness and integration of the Military is an inevitable requirement for the modern day battlefield. The biggest challenge to jointness is to bring about an attitudinal shift by turning the sense of insecurity and mutual suspicion into a sense of belongingness amongst the Services as well as the politico-bureaucratic establishment. The change will need to be implemented top down for it to take root and be effective. While there is urgent need to appoint a CDS, we should get on with initiating the process of establishing ITCs and IFCs in the larger interest of achieving jointness and integration.

Lack of strategic forethought in the politico-bureaucratic dispensation has had direct bearing on integration and jointness of the military…

Both the Kargil Review Committee and the follow-up Group of Ministers (GoM) had recommended the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), essential to synergise the Indian Armed Forces and provide single point military advice to the political authority of the country. The GoM report says, “The functioning of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) has, to date, revealed serious weaknesses in its ability to provide single point military advice to the government, and resolve substantive inter-Service doctrinal, planning, policy and operational issues adequately. This institution needs to be appropriately revamped to discharge its responsibilities efficiently and effectively including the facilitation of jointness and synergy among the three Services.”

As per news reports, the recommendation of the Naresh Chandra Committee for appointing a Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) itself is facing bureaucratic opposition from within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) albeit the Defence Minister has stated that the issue is yet to be discussed by the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS). Incidentally, Pranab Mukherjee as Defence Minister had remarked during a presentation at Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in 2005 that the government had even decided who the CDS would be but then there was “no political consensus” adding in the same breath “but then there is no political consensus on so many things but they do come through”.

Lack of strategic forethought in the politico-bureaucratic dispensation in India and the higher defence set up sans participation by the Services in national defence decision-making has had direct bearing on integration and jointness of the military. Additionally, the latent political fear amongst the bureaucrats of military supremacy egged on by bureaucrats-turned-politicians, the police lobby, IPS turned politicians and the craving to maintain primacy by playing on Inter-Service rivalry and exercising overt control over financial expenditures, equipment acquisitions and appointments have not permitted institution of a CDS. But this is only half the story.

Equally to blame are the Service Chiefs who, to maintain their own turfs, have never been united in telling the government that the appointment of a CDS is necessary for the good of the military and the country. The Service Chiefs want to retain ‘operational’ control of their respective services despite their designation being Chief of Army/Navy/Air “Staff”. Then are instances where a Chief has even done a complete turnabout and made statements against the need of a CDS at the time of retirement for the sake of a Governorship, obviously playing along the politico-bureaucratic lobby that is against appointing a CDS. Equally painful has been the decision by the Service Chiefs in turning down the concept of Integrated Theatre Commands despite various joint studies highlighting the tremendous operational and administrative benefits that would accrue with such reorganisation – this again because of individual turfs.

History attests to the importance of being able to integrate the capabilities of different military forces…

Future Battlefield

The battlefield of tomorrow will be non-linear with multi-dimensional battle spaces characterised by nuclear ambiguity, increased lethality, a very high degree of mobility coupled with simultaneity of engagement and increased tempo of operations with compressed time and space coupled with a high degree of transparency. Given current dispensations in the sub-continent, the nuclear factor will further limit the depth and duration of conflict, which would be short and intense. This would necessitate swift and concerted response by the three Services coupled with quick decision making, the framework of which would already have to be in place with a joint command and control structure to direct the operations plus continued joint training and adequate rehearsals and exercises.

Jointness and Integration

No further justification for military jointness and integration is warranted beyond Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s address to the Unified Commanders Conference in 2004, wherein he had said, “Reforms within the armed forces also involve recognition of the fact that our navy, air force and army can no longer function in compartments with exclusive chains of command and single Service operational plans.” History attests to the importance of being able to integrate the capabilities of different military forces. From ancient war-fighting techniques to Operation Desert Storm and beyond, success in war has been contingent on the common sense idea of jointness as seamless integration. In simple terms, jointness in non-traditional terms of military strategy and doctrine implies the response to the evolving nature of warfare.

Given the fact that the future Services have to operate jointly, even in smaller contingencies, jointness will enhance synergy of modern military forces. Complementary operations will be built around a key force rather than a key Service. It must be understood that no single weapon or force reaches its full potential unless employed with complementary capabilities of the other Services. Integration is the corollary to jointness. Integration is a concept which refers to improved procedures for combining the unique, specialised capabilities of different Services to enhance combat effectiveness.

Success in war has been contingent on the common sense idea of jointness as seamless integration…

Today we are confronted with many complex threats and challenges to security. The sources and types of conflicts for which joint planning must be carried out are becoming more diverse and less predictable even as our adversaries/potential adversaries continues to grow. The global security agenda has expanded in functional terms.

Yesterday’s peripheral challenges such as security of energy sources and the threat from mass migrations now compete with conventional threats. Such challenges in the security paradigm are changing the strategic terms in which military leaders must address long-term integrated joint planning so as to create defence capabilities that are relevant to emerging threats. Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is rapidly transforming traditional war-fighting concepts. It is aimed at achieving full spectrum dominance through effective employment of joint forces and is increasingly relevant to the Indian context. Future requirements of dominant manoeuvre, information dominance, focused and integrated logistics, all call for jointness.

The battlefield of tomorrow requires Effect Based Operations (EBOs). EBOs can best be progressed through application of all the instruments of the nation state. What this implies is that EBO can only succeed if all components of national power are brought to bear, which in turn means that Defence Forces must possess the capability for full spectrum joint operations and an integrated approach. It is also important to understand that this synergistic application of power is to be applied at all levels of warfare, be it tactical, operational or strategic.

Again, the economy of a nation dictates the size and reach of the Defence Forces. Efficient defence management calls for enhanced jointmanship that can contribute to optimum utilisation of the meagre resources by addressing in-built redundancies in the process of force organisation, equipping and establishing its support system. Besides, battlefield transparency is available today with technology increasingly enabling concerted employment of various weapon platforms of different Services to achieve a joint response for greater and more devastating effect.

The geographical zones of responsibilities of various Commands of the three Services have little commonality…

Knowledge management needs to be addressed on a war footing, integrating our disparate intelligence gathering apparatus into a cohesive entity especially since EBOs require delineation of Centres of Gravity, vulnerable points and strategic targets, which all depends upon a great deal on intelligence. National security cannot be achieved without information superiority. This requires institutionalising joint mechanisms, free from wrangling of jurisdiction and turf protection. The bottom line is that in our approach to achieve jointness, our Defence Forces must be suitably integrated into the higher defence organisation of the country and they must be integrated within themselves so as to achieve the desired level of jointness. This requires political awareness towards future security requirements, national will and necessary drive from the very top.

Integrated Commands

The vast expanse of India requires identification of geographical theatres that are of military security concern. Conceptually, a theatre should include within its geographical boundary the entire geographically contiguous territory of a competing entity or an adversary including geographically contiguous territories of those entities or states which, in the event of hostilities, may collaborate either with the adversary or with own country. It must also include adjoining seas and space above that may be essential for manoeuvre of own forces to address the threatening entity/adversary and its geographically contiguous collaborator(s). This is an exercise which must be undertaken by the Indian strategists and military planners in order to arrive at a common politico-military-economic strategy for managing geo-strategic concerns of the country and designate a single multi-disciplinary and multi-service agency to formulate and implement a common “theatre strategy”.

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The three Services presently have 17 single Service Commands. In addition, there are two Tri-Service Commands in Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and Strategic Forces Command (SFC). The 19 Commands have considerable duplication and need streamlining. The geographical zones of responsibilities of various Commands of the three Services have little commonality. In most cases, the command of one Service overlaps or is linked with two or more Commands of sister Services. None of the Commands are collocated leading to lack of coordination in intelligence sharing, planning and execution.

The truth is that single Service Commands are antiquated structures which violate the basic principle of operational art which stipulates single-point command of military resources to attain the desired objectives. Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs) need to be established encompassing the entire operational spectrum with two to three Integrated Functional Commands (IFCs) that may be Bi-Service or Tri-Service under each ITC. The existing 17 single service Commands need to be reorganised accordingly. Fear of dilution of command authority and loss of promotional avenues due to right sizing, are unwarranted since none of these 17 Commands need be disbanded though re-alignment of operational geographical boundaries will obviously need to be undertaken.

Military thinkers in India have opined that only an Act of Parliament can bring about changes for our defence forces…

The need of the hour is that all single Service Commands gradually evolve into either ITCs (akin to ANC) or IFCs (akin to SFC). Command and staffing of all ITCs and IFCs should be tri-Service taking into account existing rank structures so that promotional avenues of any Service are not affected. The CDS should exercise full operational control on the Commands. Reorganisation of the 17 single service Commands can be on the lines of four to five ITCs based on defined geographical theatres in addition to the ANC. These should be the IFCs consisting of an Integrated Aero-Space Command, Integrated Cyber Defence Command, Integrated Air Defence Command, Integrated Special Forces Command, one or two Integrated Training Command(s) and one or two Integrated Logistics & Maintenance Commands, in addition to the SFC.

There has been speculation in the past to the requirement of separate Integrated Commands for Internal Security and for Disaster Relief but these would be redundant without separate resources being allocated, which is unlikely in the foreseeable future. ITCs and IFCs cannot be established in isolation from implementation of a strategy for fostering jointness and integration in the Services. Steps would need to be taken in phased manner. Gradual changes would need to be brought in both vertically and horizontally without reducing operational capabilities at any stage. In fact, reorganisation of Commands should be orchestrated in a manner that each step boosts combat capability.

Requirement

The best option is the top down approach by appointing a CDS followed by reorganisation of the existing Commands into ITCs and IFCs. However, this implies wait for strategic wisdom to dawn on the politico-bureaucratic hierarchy. In the UK, the CDS was simply thrust upon the military by the government after 18 years of bickering and dissensions amongst the Services. Other countries adopted government resolutions for such acts, enforcing jointness and integration and for ushering in RMA.

The truth is that single Service Commands are antiquated structures which violate a basic principle of operational art…

Many a time strategists and military thinkers in India have opined that only an Act of Parliament (like the Goldwater-Nichols Act of the US) can bring about such changes in the Indian defence forces but the million dollar question is how this can happen. While there are no easy answers, it may be prudent for the Military (actually HQ IDS in this case) to work on a Draft Act of Parliament, for which adequate interaction with think tanks and strategic thinkers should be done. If the COSC goes to the Government with such a draft, there are bright chances of it seeing the light of the day sometime in the future.

Concurrently, the COSC needs to take a call on the formation of the ITCs and IFCs through reorganisation of single Service Commands (framework for which is already with HQ IDS) and seek government approval through a comprehensive proposal including time-plan of its implementation. Needless to mention, this requires sincere resolve on part of the Service Chiefs and a strong Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee to see it through. Past experience shows that whenever the three Services have come to an agreement at a sufficiently high level before going to the MoD, the bureaucrats find it difficult to reject it.

The Government must seriously look at the resources required for the twenty-first century Indian Military commensurate with the desired global stature of India. There is always a debate as to how much the nation should spend on security and how much on boosting its economy but the fact is that with inadequate security, the economy can suffer major setbacks given the stance of our adversaries.

Permanent allocation of forces is required to ensure security of military theatres. The ANC set up is one example where the operations are still looked after by the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) due to lack of resource allocation by the Navy. Additionally, jointness in operations flows from sound joint training. Permanent allocation of forces is required to train together for fighting jointly.

Changes in nomenclature of the Services HQ to Integrated HQ of MoD have not gone beyond an exercise in semantics…

Meagre resources available with each Service have precluded any meaningful level of joint training, thereby affecting implementation of any joint concept. There are few organisational structures in place, which could meaningfully formulate or impart the desired level of joint training. The essential ingredients of a joint training system (joint training philosophy, joint training infrastructure and joint training processes) need to be implemented. Additionally, technology is one of the principal factors that drive the change in the method of war-fighting. It has been the main impediment in achieving any level of jointness in the Indian context. Key technologies enabling joint war-fighting are a pre-requisite to fighting and training jointly.

The Government must also seriously address the issue of true integration of HQ IDS and the Services with the MoD. Changes in nomenclature of the Services HQ to Integrated HQ of MoD have not gone beyond an exercise in semantics. Integration of Service HQ with MoD should transcend nomenclatures, cut out duplication, decentralise decision making and devolve financial powers. Joint staffing throughout MoD by Service and civilian officers should be the norm. Financial advisers must work under Service HQ and act as advisers not controllers. Cross posting of Service officers to MEA, MHA, NSC should be reciprocated by posting of civilian officers to HQ IDS/Services HQ, ITCs and IFCs, all aimed at political hierarchy getting direct advice from military professionals.

Conclusion

Jointness and integration of the Military is an inevitable requirement for the modern day battlefield. The biggest challenge to jointness is to bring about an attitudinal shift by turning the sense of insecurity and mutual suspicion into a sense of belongingness amongst the Services as well as the politico-bureaucratic establishment. The change will need to be implemented top down for it to take root and be effective.

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While there is urgent need to appoint a CDS, we should get on with initiating the process of establishing ITCs and IFCs in the larger interest of achieving jointness and integration. Consensus and determination of the Military would ensure overcoming diplomatic hurdles. If we are to be determined to emerge winners in future conflict situations, we need to begin now.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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3 thoughts on “Integrated Theatre Commands

  1. THE INDIAN ARMED FORCES ARE STRUCTURED , MANNED , EQUIPPED ANDBASICALLY CONTROLLED BY BLIND BABUS FOR DEFENSIVE DIV , SQUN OR A THREE SHIP BATTLES WITH ASUB OR A CARRIER THROWN IN . THE FORCES WANT REACH AND PREACH CAPABILTY FROM MALACCA TO PERSION GULF TO SAFEGUARD INDIAN INTERESTS AND CONTROL THE SUBCONTINENT MASS AND THE OCEAN . WITH EQUIPMENT BUYING SPREE THE BABUS AND POLITCANS SEE A BIG PIE TO BE LOOTED WITH CRUMBS THROWN TO THE COLLUDING RANKS AND POST RETIREMENT JOINT SECY LEVEL GOVERNERSHIP OR AMBASSODERSHIP WHERE NO IAS IFS , IPS OFFICER IS WILLING TO GO . BY HAVING A CDS NOTHING WILL CHANGE , THE ARMED FORCES CIVILAN CADRES , THE CSS IN MOD THE COAL AGRICULTURE OR SOME OTHER MINSTRY TRAINED IAS BABUS HAVE TO BE SHUNTED OUT . A PERMANENT MILTARY BUREUCRACY CREATED FROM SERVICE RANKS WITH 10 YRS OF ANY MILTARY BACKGROUND AND THEN GROOMED FOR WORKING AS BABUS IN ARMED FORCES HQ, MOD , PMO , HOME MINSTRY , FOREIGNSERVICE , SHIPPING RAIL AVIATION AND ROAD MINSTRIES WITH TENURES IN INDUSTRY , COMMERCE , AGRICULTURE RAILWAYS THROWN IN . ONLY WHEN THE SOLDER SAILOR AIRMEN , BABUS , SCIENTISTS ARE INTEGRATED IN COMMON MANNING OF THEATRE COMMANDS BRIG AND DIV HQ CORPS AND FLEET , AIR COMMANDS AND WINGS WILL TRUE INTEGRATION TAKE PLACE WITH JOINT OPERATIONS ROOMS AND NATIONAL COMMAND POSTS WITH REPS OF IB , RAW , FOREIGN , HOME MOD AND CDS OFFICERS CONTROLLING THE BATTLE ABLY SUPPORTED BY A COMMON LOGISTICS AND ORDNANCE ORGANISATION WHICH AT PRESENT LEVEL IS ABYSSIMNAL WITH PLUNDERING AND LOOT DEPRIVING THE FORCES OF FOOD CLOTHING , ARMS AND AMMUNITION WITH ACTIVE COLLUUSION OF POLITCANS AND BABUS AND SPRINKLING OF UNIFORMED RANKS WHO WOULD WANT STATUS QUO AND NOT CHANGE THE SYSTEM WHICH FEEDS THEM . A VISIT TO A NON EXISTANT NAVAL WAR ROOM AT SOUTH BLOCK WHERE CDRS SIT UNDER STAIRS NEXT TO THE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS WILL PUT ALL TO SHAME THE SERVICE CHIEFS NOT WANTING TO HAND CONTROL TO THE FIELD CDRS OF ARMY , NAVY OR AIRFORCE THE PRICE WHICH YOUNG SOLDERS SAILOR

  2. 1. The article does pin points towards the need for a able unified command wherein the futuristic battles can be lead successfully with much synergy required so as to produce adequate damage in limited timeframe yet keeping below the nuclear threshold.

    2. The writer portrays Governorship in a manner which almost acts as a lucrative second carrier options for our top brass. In our nation with a booming billion plus population, it is seen as a taboo if a Army personnel enters politics. In my opinion it is high time having completed 65 years of our independence that rich experience of our top brass may be used for benefit of our Nation as well as armed forces.

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