Defence Industry

The Indian Army Contracts with Private Military Companies: Way Forward?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Sep , 2020

Annually the armed forces release approximately 75,000 personnel (Officer and other ranks), well trained, skilled and experienced in various fields. The Army stays young and agile with this turnover of individuals at the age of 35-45 years. It is this disciplined, experienced and motivated manpower which then finds itself out on the street looking for jobs!

Surely, not a healthy or motivating sign which may encourage our youth to join the Armed Forces for a short term ‘Job’ fraught with risk of life and limb, retiring at a prime age, some with a pittance as pension others without it and mingle with a society that does not even care to give you a fair chance to be a part of it.

We are talking about well-trained, disciplined, experienced and motivated team of human resources, who were handpicked after being tested for their mental and physical abilities, went through years of rigorous training, have led large teams, and are battle hardened leaders who are forced to think on their feet, take decisions, give directions, in situations where the consequence of error is loss of life and National Pride.

The Armed Forces have approximately 150 to 160 odd qualified trades ranging from computer hackers to civil engineers, supply chain & logistics to satellite communication. From vocational training and trade apprenticeship to leadership and management training, the Army gives skills and knowledge to fulfil every job. A large part of the military budget is deployed towards training and skill building that includes all aspects of technical, cognitive and leadership development.

Costs & Budgets : The Constant Tussle

Whilst almost a lakh of these ,disciplined and well motivated, personnel leave the forces each year, the policies for absorbing them in second careers have always been cloudy and unsure. Industry mostly considers such individuals suitable only for ‘Security or Administration ‘ ignoring the multi talents & skills that these individuals bring with them.

Ministry of Defense and the three services have put in efforts towards resettlement albeit with limited success. The policies flip flop between SSC and others getting absorbed in CAPFs on deputation to being re-employed where possible or attempting to join the Corporate World.

Director General Resettlement is the primary organization in charge of training and re-employment, they have been dealing with Coal Transportation and Security Agencies as well as Licenses for CNG/Petrol Pumps for some time. However, it is looked upon by many, as a defunct organisation. Army Placement Agency is another organization for the three services that operate in a similar model as any hiring or recruitment firm.

A significant amount of money is spent in imparting courses with educational institutes towards creating job readiness for a career in the corporate world. Zila Sanik Board serves as the grass-root touch point for JCO’s/ OR’s and help them in undertaking primary and secondary employment registrations. Despite this institutional concern and effort, we have these dedicated, skilled personnel across all ranks struggling to find a place of dignity in our society.

A deplorable sight to see is a soldier who has gone through thousands of hours of structured and experiential training,  as a doorman at a five-star hotel or a factory gate for a pittance of a mere eight to ten thousand rupees. An Infantry Soldier is treated at par with a ‘Semi Skilled’ worker after having spent the better part of his youth , laying his life at risk on borders and insurgencies!

Most officers end up joining the corporate world in security, administration and facilities that don’t use a small percent of what they are capable of, hence leaving them frustrated and unfulfilled for the rest of their lives. No wonder we are seeing the family tradition of joining the Armed Forces as dying.

This issue is going to further accentuate if the recent studies on Officer Management are put into place.The three year tour of duty, SSC, JAG, TES  and Ajay Vikram Singh Committee’s (AVSC) recommendation on reversing the ratio of main to support segments of the Army’s officer cadre. The present ratio of permanent to short service commission of 4 : 1 is being recommended to be changed to 1 : 1.1. This means that the number of officers coming out of the service after 10 and 14 years will increase dramatically. The two approved decisions to absorb these officers in the Central Armed Forces Police Force and Industrial Deputation is far from being implemented and is an impossible reality.

Transition from a White Elephant to an Attractive Option

Countries with large military establishments have done a great deal of work in integration and engagement in the corporate workforce and bolstered the business case argument for investing in the hiring of veterans. Veterans have proven to have a terrific success rate across management, support and business roles. Many Fortune 500 CEOs got their start in the military.

Most global companies have a focused veteran’s program, and they run special targets and programs to hire them. GE, UTC, Boeing, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Amazon have hired them in specialized functions like cyber security, risk & compliance to HR, HSE, operations and sales.

Companies in India don’t have a structured veteran hiring program, but conglomerates like Mahindra, JSW, JK Corp, Tata, Bharat Forge, RIL, and L&T have benefited tremendously by hiring veterans. Few companies like Goldman Sachs have extended their diversity hiring policy to locations outside of the US and in India they run a focused internship program for veterans.

Lack of Awareness

Indian armed forces have regularly excelled in every field including even at UN peacekeeping missions, yet back home we leave them out? This may be attributed to the lack of knowledge of the Armed Forces, the establishment, their experience, skill and application in the corporate world. The Canteen Stores Department run by the Army recorded annual sales of INR 20,000 crores, making them the largest and most diversified retail company in the country; Army Supply Corps is the country’s largest logistics company, Army Corps of Engineers has laid roads, bridges, tracks, helipads and rescue infrastructure when the best of the professional agencies failed. The Ordnance Services are experts in Stocks and inventory whilst the technical arms are great in manufacturing. Areas like project management, logistics, HR, purchase functions are second nature  and  would solve  the talent gap in infrastructure, real estate, utilities, industrial, metals, consumer goods etc.

Food for Thought

War and Conflict have always been the backdoor for big businesses. Mega corporations manufacture weapons, vehicles, equipment and more under the government’s payroll; pioneering innovation and advancement in this demand intensive market. Profiteering from war is also a subject of moral debate, but that’s just capitalism.

The efforts of India’s Government to ‘downsize’ the forces needs to read ’right size’ and the financial burden needs to be turned around to a more or less self reliant organisation if not a profit generating one. It is my belief that this can be achieved if right ‘policies’ are adopted.

The answer lies in creating ‘Private Military Corporations’ (PMC) or Companies like those in the ‘Western World’.

Examples:-

The French government has a 49.90% stake in the DCI group based out of Paris with several sites all over the national territory. It has permanent offices abroad, in particular in the Middle East with Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and in Asia with Brunei, India, Malaysia and Singapore. DCI continues to expand internationally with innovative, high value- added services through the development of new partnerships. With a workforce of nearly 1000 employees, they generated a turnover of 240.7 million euro in 2018.

DCI of France has been a reference operator of the ministry of the armed forces for the international transfer of the French military know-how to friendly countries armed forces, DCI group has been operating across the entire defence and security spectrum for more than 45 years. Holding the “French Armed Forces Training” label, DCI offers tailor-made services in the fields of consulting, training and technical assistance. (www.groupedci.com) .

A private military company(PMC) on the other hand  is a private company providing armed combat or security services for financial gain. PMCs refer to their business generally as the “private military industry” or the circuit they refer to their staff as “security contractors” or “private military contractors”.

Another example could be that of the ‘Blackwater’ a US based mercenary force which employs ex servicemen with the required expertise in the field of operation. Blackwater has been known to support or even replace US forces in foreign countries .

In an effort to reduce costs and generate revenue, veterans need to be encouraged to form corporates , various services could then be out sourced to cut costs & generate employment in the areas mentioned below:-

•  Take on the responsibility of supply chains.

•  Undertake Stocking and manage Ordnance Depots.

•  Provide security to military establishments.

•  Take over and run Base Workshops being privatised.

•  Set up camps to include HAA shelters.

•  Take over and run Command Battle Schools.

•  Set up training establishments in friendly foreign countries.

•  Undertake joint training with friendly forces.

•  Increase participation in UN Peace Keeping.

•  Reduce civilians numbers in DRDO, Ordnance Factories, MES.

•  Like the DCI, form Corporates to market Military Hardware, training and technology both within the Country and Internationally.

Private Military Companies are non-existent in both media adaptations and the field. A report by FICCI suggested that private security firms are amongst the largest employers in India, employing more than 8 million people, with the potential to employ about 3 million more by 2022.A booming industry where the manpower is dominated by ex-servicemen; Indian firms are unable to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with PMCs mainly due to State supremacy. Make in India should open doors for this.

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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 Pradeep Sharma

a regularly contributes defence related columns to news dailies.

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5 thoughts on “The Indian Army Contracts with Private Military Companies: Way Forward?

  1. Army is not an attractive option for the youth any where in the world . “ Motivated to Serve the country’ ‘ Driven by self less service ‘ etc are slogans the politicians use hoping this will continue to keep the men in uniform & shed their blood when called to do so. Why will any Right Minded man agree to tie himself down , that too for at least twenty years , travel to Remote and inhospitable parts of the country, agree to an unsettled life , not only for himself but also his wife and children, when even the money is not good enough ! Yet the country needs a strong Army, more so when you have Hostile neighbours. The solution perhaps lies in ‘ Conscription’ . Let every one contribute , it will at least bring some awareness amongst the masses besides inculcating Discipline which is absent from our Society.

  2. Very good thoughts, but who bells the cat or how to bell the cat?
    There are many easy ways, but the executive looks for votes and keep the disciplined following discipline only.
    Worst part, even the Zilla Sainik Boards employees are mostly civilians.

    Rank plays more than qualification and experience even after leaving service, which is a great drawback. Exposure and experience carry very little importance for ex-servicemen. Some lucky ones make it. But others;
    God save!

  3. Very constructive suggestion,and can boost the indigenous arms equipment mfg being undertaken under Atmnirbhar Abhyan induced by PM
    Trained and dedicatedly disciplined workforce can give right settlement in efficient working of these trained force.

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