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Unpredictable Security Environment: Need for an Integrated Military Approach
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Issue Vol. 32.2 Apr-Jun 2017 | Date : 08 Sep , 2017

The overall effort should be to enhance operational capabilities in an evolving security scenario. The Indian Armed Forces cannot remain immune even in changing times to serve narrow parochial objectives. The integration and restructuring of the armed forces is warranted by the emerging security environment. In the backdrop of the above, the integrated command structure may be tri-services or even bi-services depending upon the nature of threat to India. It revolves around the mission and unity of command to fight a successful war and in turn, theatre battles. What is important is that decision time should be reduced and simultaneity of application of military force be achieved in a highly volatile and fast changing war scenario. The services need to keep national interests in mind rather than protecting their own turf.

The debate over the restructuring of the armed forces in India has intensified after China has carried out major military reforms. There are fundamental differences between India and China in the type of government, national security objectives, economy and the nature of security challenges. Therefore, it is not necessary that India’s military reforms should be based on the changes brought in by People’s Liberation Army (PLA). But what is noteworthy is that security dynamics are fast changing and future wars will not be like the last war. Future wars will be fought simultaneously on land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and even cognitive domain. Future wars would require joint planning and joint execution for synergised response. Every battle, every war is different and one cannot assume that what worked before will work in future too. The Indian armed forces must cut loose from the past and open up to the present.1

We need to question that if future wars are likely to be complex, ambiguous, short, swift and lethal, in that case, are the Indian Armed Forces structured to respond to future wars in a synergised manner? Evolving threats need evolving defence structures and doctrines. The US and UK have constantly evolved their armed forces considering the threats and challenges and the strategic interests of the nation. The formal reforms in the British armed forces started way back in 1868 by Edward Cardwell and subsequently, Haldane Reforms were carried out in the period 1906 to 1912 after the Boer War. Similarly, landmark reforms and restructuring of its armed forces were carried out by the US post World War II and later by the Goldwater Nichols Act, 1986. China has been evolving continuously from a peasant’s army to a military force that is capable of fighting an informationalised war. We must be careful while comparing with the US, China and Russia since they are reforming and restructuring for “Global Security Architect” with the focus on expeditionary military capabilities. Thus, restructuring of the Indian Armed Forces should be based on the current and future security requirements of India.

Liberty can turn into the curse that can lead to loss of culture, peace, prosperity and freedom…

India’s higher defence organisation and armed forces structure is based on the recommendations of Lord Ismay, Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor General of India. The post of Commander in Chief was abolished in 1947-1948 and three separate services were established with no integration at the top. India has fought five wars since independence with each service executing their operational tasks independently. However, the complex nature of security threats warrant a re-look at the current structure and it is imperative to examine whether India should continue to have the current model or look at integration as a concept to prepare the armed forces for future wars.

One must remember that before we jump to a conclusion of restructuring the armed forces, one must look at new strategic context. In the current strategic context, nature and character of warfare is changing at a rapid pace and conflict can range from non-contact war to full spectrum war. The battlespace is merging and lines of conflict are blurring and hence no single service can ensure a decisive victory in future wars. A nation can plunge into chaos if its armed forces become weak and fear of sword depletes. The state can become fragmented, subjects homeless and motherland an unfamiliar land. Liberty can turn into the curse that can lead to loss of culture, peace, prosperity and freedom.

Need for New Concept of Military Organisation

The most fundamental responsibility of the Armed Forces is to fight a nation’s wars and to be prepared to fight them in future too.2 The Armed Forces should anticipate threats, fill operational vacuum and train to fight conventional and sub-conventional wars efficiently. The primary reason for developing capability is to make a nation more secure against external and internal threats and also to protect its vital national interests even beyond its territorial boundaries. In case the current structures are unsuitable for securing vital national interests, a change in the overall structure must be effected and gaps plugged.

Modern conflicts are seldom so clear-cut and “victory” is far more elusive in reality. The vast majority of conflicts are rarely as precise or as free of casualties or political frustrations as we tend to remember.3 A war can never be executed as planned because scope, objective and response of adversaries can never be predicted. In light of the above, what succeeds in war is capability, speedy assembly of fire and forces and simultaneous application of tools or war at a point of decision. It is not possible to achieve such synergy through ad hoc structures.

 A more vibrant and professional approach is required to revamp higher defence organisation…

The Indian armed forces may be unmatched on the conventional battlefield but far less prepared to deal with the emerging irregular or non-traditional challenges that are most likely to confront in the years ahead.4 Integrated application of forces along with cyber, space and CBRN are the new normal. In such an environment, the full range of kinetic and non-kinetic tools of war cannot be employed unless there are structures, command and control organisations and integration of forces at the functional level. In the absence of understanding of modern conflict and structures, there is a likelihood of flawed grasp of contemporary conflicts. The manifestation of such flawed grasp will lead to:

  • Unreasonable political and public expectations for quick wins in a war at low cost or a perception that future wars will be like the last war.
  • A perception that blunts military power will deliver decisive military victory.
  • Naïve views of application of military power by adversaries on natural lines of expectations.

There may be set piece drills, procedures and SOPs for joint operations but the challenges in the absence of institutionalised integrated force application are:

  • How to assemble forces to meet operational needs in a security environment rife with uncertainty.5
  • How to transform forces to exploit technology and meet long-term security needs. It is now widely agreed that both assembling and transforming forces in the new security era must be driven by the demands of joint operations.6
  • Seamless integration of forces during peacetime to deliver during the war.
  • Interoperability and understanding the concept of integrated operations in a highly lethal and uncertain/ unpredictable operational environment.

Security challenges to India will increase with collusive threat from China and Pakistan and continuation of a hybrid war by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. Both nations have known hybrid and unrestricted war capabilities to keep India engaged in undeclared war by the employment of asymmetric means. In light of the above, the time has come to adopt an integrated approach for both assembling and transforming forces in the new security era driven by the demands of joint operations. But before we decide to transform and restructure military as an integrated force at the functional and operational level, care must be taken that the Indian Armed Forces do not focus on capability-building for the wars of a bygone era. It makes inefficient investments in the basic approach to build capabilities. The Armed Forces should adopt a more balanced approach to meet current and future challenges for full spectrum conflicts.

 New Architecture for Integration of Forces

The Armed Forces are resistant to change and therefore, reforms are not easy to implement but future wars cannot be fought with tired ideologies and obsolete structures. The irony is that the existing structures have cemented over a period of time and it is not easy to break or restructure until compelled by political will after restructuring higher defence organisation and redefining national security objectives. The emerging security environment will require changes in national security strategy, joint military doctrine, the concept of joint operations, command and control organisations, war fighting strategies, and even military hardware before India decides to implement integrated command structures at the functional level. It would require a common understanding of the application of forces in a given battle space.

During the 1980s, US security focus was on “deterrence and containment.” This warranted that the US had to have enough airplanes, ships and tanks to stop a Warsaw Pact attack through the central plains of Germany and it needed nuclear-armed missiles, bombers and submarines to deter a nuclear attack on US cities.7 The integrated approach is also required across all government agencies and the MOD in particular. It must also make the investment in people, not as much in hardware as its highest defence priority.8

Integration is not something that can be institutionalised by an ordinance or government order…

Developing Capabilities for Common Military Objective

Reforms must commence at the top. A more vibrant and professional approach is required to revamp higher defence organisation. At the moment, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) does not have professional advisors or single-point intimate military advice on matters related to national security. In addition, there is no structured charter or calendar to debate or review the periodic security situation. Restructuring higher defence organisation is as necessary as the restructuring of the armed forces. In the current system, the military has no penetration at national policy level including CCS and NSC.

The significance of an integrated command was realised even during World War II especially in operations such as the Normandy Landings. It required a deep understanding of preparing and amassing forces for a common cause. In an environment that is highly dynamic and rapidly transforming, there is definitely a requirement of integrated organisations to train, equip and employ such forces without delay. The understanding of operations does not come until they are placed under a single theatre command structure. Care must be taken that the services maintain appropriate structures to “organise, train, and equip” – up to a point.9

National Security Strategy and Military Doctrine

Integration is not something that can be institutionalised by an ordinance or government order. It would first require the conceptual framework to define national security objectives and strategy. This would lay down broad guidelines for joint military doctrine. India certainly needs its own Goldwater-Nichols Act that apart from defence reforms also directs the President to deliver a national security strategy and review roles and missions at least every three years.10 In the Indian context, national security is only debated when there is crisis. There is no fixed periodicity of the meeting of the CCS and National Security Council (NSC). Until or unless these basic issues are not streamlined, the question will remain – integration for what?

Matching Resources to Threats and Priorities

The military investment must be based on priorities to maintain and develop threat-cum-capability-based force. Every service would like to get maximum focus and priorities to bridge operational vacuum but the reality is that no government can meet the wishlist projected by the Service Headquarters. Military planners therefore, should adopt a more balanced approach to transform and develop capabilities to meet current and future challenges. The question is, can it be achieved if the three services carry out the independent evaluation of their capabilities without joint planning and joint evaluation of threshold capabilities? The bottom line is that the services must have basic threshold capabilities to fight future integrated wars. No single service should outpace another in the infusion of technology because that would cause imbalance making integration of forces difficult. Matching capabilities are essential in a networked and integrated environment.

Organising to Prepare and to Operate as Integrated Force

The Indian Armed Forces should prepare for a future with a fresh look at the evolving threats. The Armed Forces should reshape, reconfigure and modernise overall forces and not make them dissimilar. In military affairs as in business, the objective of the organisation is to align competency with responsibility.11 Dissimilar capabilities make overall military organisations inefficient and incompetent to fight future wars. During the Iraq War, the US military found that it was not equipped and trained for fourth-generation warfare that its soldiers encountered in Iraq. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted, “You go to war with the army you have. In spite of the US being the most modern military in the world, the system to organise, train and equip had failed the troops in Iraq.”12 The transition from peacetime posture to combat can be navigated efficiently if the formations are integrated by command, communication, logistics, training, joint planning and equipment. A fragmented force is unlikely to deliver in a high voltage intense conflict. Therefore, a force has to be organised to train and operate as an integrated force. Following imperatives must be kept in mind:

Restructuring should not be undertaken in an abrupt manner; it must be debated first and inputs taken from within the services…

  • Battle management and core capabilities should be tailored for integrated operations. The problem is that there are six territorial Army Commands whereas there are only four Air Force Commands. If the air assets of four commands are to be distributed in six commands, it will defeat the basic principle of economy of effort. Moreover, the distribution of already depleted air assets will weaken both land and air battles. Therefore, mathematical distribution is uncalled for.
  • Exercises should be based on joint doctrine and concepts to increase readiness profile.
  • A force should be so structured that on common information all components are able to mobilise and merge as one force. During operations, strong services affiliation will have to be shed.
  • Intelligence, communication and logistics need not wait for integrated commands. It can be affected under the current HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) without impinging on the independence of each service.
  • Integrated command structure will only function effectively after each service has acquired basic core joint capabilities. Most of these core capabilities are related to communication, cyber, mobility, fire control and integrated logistics support.

 Transformation and Restructuring

It is not only the question of transformation from single services command structure to the integrated command structure but also to develop and implement solutions to future operational demands.13 The question of whether we should restructure existing commands or reorganise based on geography or on threats from the adversaries, should be resolved. The IDS should assume the responsibility to transform joint capabilities and act as nucleus and core. Under the supervision of the IDS, the conceptual framework should be laid down by the three services think-tanks, Training Commands and other integrated commands to transformation from single service to Integrated Services commands. The models already exist in the case of IDS, Strategic Forces Command and the A&N command. Though they may not be the ideally integrated commands, but a framework which can be improved upon, exists.

Critical Lead Force

What should be the criteria, lead force or emerging new challenges and missions? The answer lies somewhere in between. Based on mission and challenges, the lead force should be earmarked. For example, the lead force for Northern borders should be land forces and similarly in the IOR, the lead force should be maritime forces.

Theatre of War

The future generation of soldiers and commanders should bear in mind that the theatre of war and battle space will not be restricted to land, sea and air but will extend to cyberspace, outer space and even the cognitive domain or national psyche as well. Armed and unarmed soldiers will be fighting the future wars. They will have to operate as part of one force under a single operational command for shaping the battle space and winning the theatres of war.

Military power is a key parameter for a country that wishes to assume a major role at the global level…

Suggested Force Building Blocks

The option is either to alter the complete character and structure of current service specific commands or to identify the areas that can be integrated in two phases after meeting the above-mentioned preconditions. Such a paradigm shift in overall structure will cause instability. Therefore, the restructuring and integration should be carried out in two phases. It is up to the government to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as the first step so that there is an authority that will direct services to embark upon the theatrisation of command structures. It will be unwise to assume that forces can be directly transformed into final integrated theatre commands, therefore, there may be interim command structures or organisations that may be required to be created and subsequently amalgamated in the final integrated theatre commands.

Areas of Common Operational Requirement

Following areas of common operational integration that could pave the way for theatrisation in Phase-1 could commence under IDS. These could subsequently either be transformed as separate command structures under the CDS or be amalgamated into new theatre commands. The areas of integration of common operational necessity are as under:

  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) are the most vital assets and are complementary to each other. They form the most essential aspect of joint planning and are most critical in the earlier stage of any conflict.
  • Special Operations Forces (SOF) are required to operate on land and sea, and are mobilised in the air, on land and on sea. They form an important part of air, land and maritime operations for strategic reconnaissance, target acquisition and even destruction of strategic assets.
  • Computer network operations for defensive and offensive operations are common and impact all three services equally.
  • Logistics during peace and war time.
  • Air Defence is one of the most significant areas that needs integration. Ad hoc command and control structure can lead to catastrophic results.
  • Security of forces and establishments during peace and war is as essential as the defeat of adversaries in battle. Exposed flanks during peace and war act as friction to combat power. Therefore, hardening of soft targets is of utmost significance.
  • Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear (CBRN) warfare detection, response and post-strike management is certainly an area for joint responsibility.
  • Communication is the most vital aspect of integration.
  • Long-range vectors and missile forces have overlapping responsibility with the air force.
  • Training, doctrine and concept development should be a tri-services command. The conceptual framework should ideally be laid down by the Training Command.

Theatrisation Based on Missions

India has four territorial commands of Army dealing with the threat from Pakistan with no theatre commander coordinating their operations. Similarly, there are three commands dealing with China with no theatre commander coordinating the operations. In the event of war, who will be made responsible to act as the theatre commander to coordinate the operations of these commands? Certainly, these commands cannot be allowed to fight their own war. The DGMO or VCOAS certainly cannot act as theatre commanders since they have their own charter of duties during war time.

On the other side, the A&N Command has the responsibility with no intrinsic maritime and amphibious capabilities to secure the maritime interests and protection of the island territories. In such a scenario, it is sans logic to carry out the mathematical distribution of resources to form theatre commands. The apprehension of the Indian Air Force to divide resources among six Territorial Army commands is justified because that would leave them without the resources to fight an air battle. In such a situation what is the best option? India certainly can’t afford a dozen integrated commands to accommodate service aspirations. It must lead to unity of command rather than piecemeal distribution of assets and responsibilities. It is impractical and such an endeavour is counter-productive. Then what is the right choice?

  • Land forces should have three integrated theatre Commands to deal with the Northern borders, the Western theatre and internal security including disaster relief.
  • There is no dispute in maintaining aerospace command, the missile forces command and the Air Defence command grouped under one or distinctly separate.
  • Two maritime commands for East and West coast separately including Andaman & Nicobar
  • Strategic Forces Command as existing.
  • Cyber and Special Forces Commands separately.
  • Training and doctrine command catering to the requirements of the three Services.
  • The restructuring is unlikely to work without a CDS.

What About Expeditionary Missions?

India certainly is not looking to be part of global security architect for expeditionary missions. But almost six million Indian expats in West Asia and Africa are vulnerable to threats from the ISIS and other Islamic extremists. The question is should India not have the capabilities to respond to the call to protect the Indian diaspora in an eventuality of uncontrolled chaos in West Asia? Indian security forces have the responsibility to develop capabilities to undertake operations on humanitarian grounds to protect Indians wherever and whenever they are under extreme threat. Therefore, India needs to create a tri-services command structure for expeditionary tasks. The option is either to delegate responsibility to one of the maritime commands as lead agency or create an ad hoc organisation under the IDS/CDS for such missions. At the moment, creating a Marine Corps or separate expeditionary force structure may not be required. But India certainly needs an Air Assault Division along with an Amphibious Brigade to deal with such contingencies.

Conclusion

The overall effort should be to enhance operational capabilities in an evolving security scenario. The Indian Armed Forces cannot remain immune even in changing times to serve narrow parochial objectives. The integration and restructuring of the armed forces is warranted by the emerging security environment. In the backdrop of the above, the integrated command structure may be tri-services or even bi-services depending upon the nature of threat to India. It revolves around the mission and unity of command to fight a successful war and in turn, theatre battles. What is important is that decision time should be reduced and simultaneity of application of military force be achieved in a highly volatile and fast changing war scenario. The services need to keep national interests in mind rather than protecting their own turf.

Restructuring should not be undertaken in an abrupt manner; it must be debated first and inputs taken from within the services and the four think tanks to come to a viable long-term view. Considering that military power is a key parameter for a country that wishes to assume a major role at the global level, India needs to think and plan big if it has to someday act big. But to be more than a global player, India’s size, location and security concerns require a major restructuring of its armed forces.14

Notes

1. Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War,Viva books, Edition 2006, p18.

2. David C. Gompert, Preparing Military Forces for Integrated Operations in the Face of Uncertainty, Issue paper Rand Corporation, RAND 2003.

3. Dr. Frank Hoffman, The Contemporary Spectrum of Conflict, Accessed on Jan 15,2017, http://index.heritage.org/military/2016/essays/contemporary-spectrum-of-conflict/

4. Lawrence J. Korb, Max A. Bergmann, Restructuring the Military, Issues in Science & Technology, Volume XXV Issue 1, Fall 2008

5. Gompert,N 2

6. Gompert,N 2

7. Jacques S. Gansler, Next Steps in Defence Restructuring, Issues in Science & Technology, Volume XIX Issue 4, Summer 2003.

8. Lawrence J. Korb, Max A. Bergmann, Restructuring the Military, Issues in Science and Technology, Fall 2008.

9. This responsibility falls to them under U.S. law—See Sections 3062, 5062, and 8062 of Title X, U.S. Code, for each service’s organizational responsibilities.

10. D. Robert Worley, Shaping U.S. Military Forces: Organize, Train, and Equip to Do What? Huffington Post, Oct 06, 2013.

11. Ibid

12. Ibid

13. Gompert, N 2

14. Dinesh Kumar, Models for restructuring commands, The Tribune, Mar 27, 2016.

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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

Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)

Senior Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

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One thought on “Unpredictable Security Environment: Need for an Integrated Military Approach

  1. There’s a urgent need to bring legislative changes to these two rules: Government of India Allocation of Business Rules (AoB rules) and the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules (ToB rules) framed in 1961. As per these rules, the Service Chiefs have no locus standi in the structure of the GoI. These rules have turned our Service Chiefs into lowly impotent outliers. They neither have the status or power to carry out their primary responsibilities. The Chiefs can ‘propose’ all they want, but it’s the bureacrats who is empowered to ‘dispose’ the matters. Politicians having no time or acumen for national security have delegated their responsibilities to the bureaucracy in MoD. National defense is not under civilian control, but under bureaucratic authority. Bring attention to this white elephant first. We can talk about integration after that.

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