At the Commanders Conference, in Dec 2015, the Prime Minister made a number of points related to outdated military doctrines, financial realities, incompatibility between modernization and expansion of forces, need to alter teeth to tail ratio etc.
For a long time Indian military has been starved of funds and the current state of equipment and reserves of ammunition is rather dismal.
Military has, for a long time been, on this business of improving teeth to tail ratio, in order to reduce revenue expenditure. These efforts started with the Expert Committee under the Chairmanship of Gen Krishna Rao in the early eighties. This committee’s recommendations did reduce the logistic component of the army. Subsequently there have been other committees that further shortened the tail elements. Besides this, army itself has been saving manpower from both combat and logistic units.
Other than the long and unsettled nature of our borders, terrain along these and other factors that come into play, to determine the size of the military required, is the type and extent of threats that can manifest from neighbours. Particularly when the relations remain strained and the fact that policies can change in matter of days and weeks, while military capabilities take years to build. Then there is that well known homely that the best way to ensure peace is to be prepared for war.
The ratio between revenue and capital expenditure is dependent on the total financial allocations. When the financial allocations are extremely low ( as has been the case in India for many years ) the ratio between revenue and capital expenditure will be skewed towards revenue expenditure. Since revenue expenditure is more or less constant, with higher financial allocations, the scales will obviously tilt in favour of capital expenditure.
American deployed state of the art technologies in Afghanistan and yet gained little success, this being so because of its unwillingness to commit the required number of boots on the ground. Therefore, it would be evident that warfare has not reached a state where technology can substantially replace boots on the ground. In India’s case the state of the art weapons and military equipment of high technology remains a distant dream and our commitments demand boots on the ground.
India still imports nearly 70 percent of it’s weapons and equipment inspite of the fact that DRDO has been on the job of indigenous development, for nearly six decades.
For a long time Indian military has been starved of funds and the current state of equipment and reserves of ammunition is rather dismal. Both China and Pakistan, on the other hand have been increasing their arsenal and modernizing their armed forces. Therefore the question, how better placed we are vis-a-vis China, compared to the situation in 1962!
India still imports nearly 70 percent of it’s weapons and equipment inspite of the fact that DRDO has been on the job of indigenous development, for nearly six decades. Imported equipment is invariably costly.
The latest Pentagon report on developments on the India Tibet border is quite discomforting. China can concentrate upto, thirty four divisions in a matter of few weeks. It has been building military infrastructures in Tibet for decades now and stocking ammunition, missiles and other military related stores. Pentagon has gone to the extent of forecasting an offensive by China against India. Well that may be an overblown view, but building extensive military infrastructure, availability of such a large force in Tibet, when India poses no threat, needs some careful analysis.
Indian army strength is approximately 12.5 Lakhs and together with Indian Air force and Indian Navy, this figure is around 15 Lakhs. The civilian employees paid out of defence budget, are 3.75 lakh. These are from various groups such as DRDO, Ordinance Factories, MES, Military Estates, Defence PSUs etc. Though they are around 25% of the strength of the defence forces, in terms of pay and allowances, their take home, in percentage terms is higher due to Non Functional Financial Up-gradation ( NFFU ) granted to these civilian employees. In the defence forces there are approximately 20 who are in the apex scale of pay, whereas amongst these civilians the figure is over 100.
Prime Minister also stressed the need for jointness. The concept of jointness is little understood in MoD circles and elsewhere.
Some of the ordinance factories are busy producing shoes, clothing etc. Cost of these items charged to the military is much higher than their price in the open market. Most of the DRDO establishments are busy inventing the wheel with nothing to show, over the decades. Our demands for a science audit of these establishments have been falling on deaf ears. Most of these establishments have outlived their utility, because what they produce or services render can be out sourced to the civil agencies and industry, at much lower cost.
Consequently most of these establishments and ordinance factories need to be closed down and assets sold out to private industry. This itself will result in, not only substantial savings in monetary terms to the military in the revenue expenditure, but equally their sale will draw considerable funds which can be deployed for modernization of forces. The remaining civilians (after disinvestment of some of the DPSUs and DRDO establishments ) in the defence establishment ( these 3.75 lakh personnel who also form ‘tail’ component ) can be substantially pruned down which again will not only reduce the tail but result in substantial saving in financial terms.
Some of the EME base workshops can be shut down and repair and overhaul of equipment passed on to the civil industry.
Prime Minister also stressed the need for jointness. The concept of jointness is little understood in MoD circles and elsewhere. Creation of appointment of CDS as the forth four star general, just to be a single point of advise to the government is a meaningless exercise. What jointness in its full spectrum means is, integrating and meshing together the fighting potential of all forces in a theater of operation, with a single commander in command of operations. This arrangement is also known as unity of command, which is an important principle of war. Under such an arrangement, the logistic components of forces (army, air force and navy as the case may be ) can be grouped together and that too will result in savings in manpower, thereby reducing the revenue component of the defence budget.
The Defence Audit staff with the MoD costs around Rs 1000 crores a year. Creation of Integrated Defence Services Headquarters as part of MoD has been a wasteful exercise.
There is considerable flab in the MoD itself. The Defence Audit staff with the MoD costs around Rs 1000 crores a year. Creation of Integrated Defence Services Headquarters as part of MoD has been a wasteful exercise. What is needed is the full integration of Defence Services Headquarters with the MoD and thereafter removing the flab from this composite Headquarters. This is the more pressing issue, which will result in considerable saving, eliminate duplication/triplication, as well as enhance overall efficiency.
Yet another committee has been formed under a retired Lt-Gen to further trim military’s logistic tail. Such an exercise carried out beyond reasonable limits can be counter-productive. Thoughtless pruning of logistic elements can seriously impact the operational efficiency of the teeth component of the army.
Consequent to Krishna Rao Committee report, in the early eighties, animal transport and stretcher-bearer companies were disbanded. It was argued that, casualty evacuation and carriage of equipment and stores can be through helicopters. When Kargil happened, the need for mules and stretcher-bearers resurfaced. In the absence of stretcher bearers and mules, disproportionately large components of fighting troops had to be deployed to carry stores and evacuate casualties, impacting fighting efficiency of infantry battalions. This was so because helicopters cannot lift casualties from the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) and Regimental Aid Posts (RAPs) and have to carried along steep slopes all the way to ADS by men and of course weather can be bad for flying for days and weeks.
What is required is a comprehensive study by the MoD with representatives from the services and other stake holders to go into the full gambit of teeth to tail ratio on one part, adoption of CDS system in its full spectrum and merging defence services headquarters with the MoD on the other.
The budgetary allocations these last few years have been extremely inadequate. On top of that and as a regular practice, large sum is surrendered every year.
The mountain corps, which was to be raised for the Tibet border has been cut to half, as if threat on that border has decreased.
Any future conflict between China/Pakistan and India, more likely than not, will have some tie up between China and Pakistan and that really complicates the issue. Therefore, such adhoc and inappropriate decisions, as cutting down this corps to half its size, and other measures to trim the military and its logistic tail can prove very costly, more so when modernization of defence forces is nowhere in sight, if and when the balloon goes up.
The budgetary allocations these last few years have been extremely inadequate. On top of that and as a regular practice, large sum is surrendered every year. It has been persistently argued that such unutalised funds should be carried forward for to the nest financial year. Indian defence forces require massive financial support to undertake modernization. The 12th Defence Plan, though in its fifth year, is yet to be approved, with full financial backing, by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).