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Chief of Defence Staff Implementation Calls For Pragmatic Blueprint

CDS will have to withstand the pressure from the Service Chiefs for higher allocation to meet their requirements.



The decision to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), or Permanent Chief of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, satisfies a long-standing demand of the strategic community in India.

Elation over the decision is understandable, but the blueprint for its operationalisation would require intensive deliberation to make sure that no aspect of its implementation is left unaddressed.

Be that as it may, post the announcement of the decision, a high-powered panel has been set up by the government under the National Security Advisor (NSA) to draw up the charter of duties of the CDS and to implement the decision.1

The panel has its work cut out, not least because the expectations from the CDS are daunting. The strategic community expects him to be entrusted with the responsibility for defence planning, resource allocation, bringing about jointness, prioritisation of acquisition programmes, intelligence gathering, training, logistics, research and development, defence manufacturing, and indigenisation, with varying degree of involvement.

The three service chiefs are expected to retain the operational role, but they would be answerable to the CDS, who is most likely to have direct control over the tri-services strategic, space, cyber and special forces commands. He is also expected to spearhead military diplomacy.

In a nutshell, he would be responsible for overall defence preparedness and function as the single-point military advisor to the government.

For him to be able to discharge all, or even some of, these functions, several structural and functional changes will have to be made.

To begin with, he will need an organisational setup. This may not pose much of a problem as this need can be served by Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS), which already exists since 2001. Some organisational changes will have to be made in its present set up. This should not lead to excessive expansion of HQ IDS. A lean and thin organisation, with officer-oriented work culture, will be less prone to bureaucratic lethargy.

Second, the functions to be carried out by the CDS will need to be specified unambiguously. It will be a challenge to strike the right balance between empowering the CDS sufficiently enough to discharge the functions assigned to him and overloading him with an unmanageable charter.

Depending on what roles are finally assigned, a number of functions presently being performed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will have to be transferred to his jurisdiction. The modality of their transfer will need to be worked out to prevent disruption in work.

Third, the question of whether the manpower handling such functions in the MoD should also be transferred to HQ IDS will need careful consideration. It may not be desirable to transfer en masse the civilian staff and officers – some of them on deputation from various civil services – who for long have been accused of lack of professional knowledge, expertise and empathy required for carrying out the functions assigned to them. This is not going to change merely by bringing them under the administrative control of the CDS. They could, of course, be ‘re-educated’, but no crash courses are available for such re-education which, in any case, may not produce the desired results.

All transferred functions should ideally be carried out by the service officers/personnel but considering that it would be contrary to the ongoing restructuring of the Services Headquarters, transfer of a section of MoD’s civilian complement to the CDS set up, seems inescapable.

However, to pre-empt any consequential dysfunctionality, it would be desirable to restrict migration of the civilian staff to the secretarial level, leaving the decision-making posts to be manned by the service personnel.

Fourth, again depending on what functions are finally assigned to the CDS, he would require to interact not only with MoD – which presumably will continue to exist in some truncated form – but also with several other ministries, including External Affairs and Finance, and also with functionaries like the Cabinet Secretary, Defence Secretary, and the National Security Advisor.

The CDS may also need to interact with other organisations such as the Cabinet Committee on Security, Standing Committee on Defence, various other Parliamentary Committees, Comptroller & Auditor General, National Security Council Secretariat, Niti Ayog, and Defence Planning Committee (assuming that it will continue to function), just to mention a few.

It would be desirable to lay down protocols and standard operating procedures for such interactions to ensure smooth functioning of the new dispensation under a non-obtrusive system of checks and balances, and to pre-empt contretemps over status, authority and responsibility of various functionaries and organisations.

Fifth, since one of the most important functions of the CDS would be to build up the capability of the armed forces, the existing capital procurement system will need to be re-engineered. Among other things, this will entail redefining the role of the Capital Acquisition Wing, categorisation committees presently embedded in HQ IDS, Defence Procurement Board, and the Defence Acquisition Council.

While defining the role of CDS in regard to capital acquisitions, MoD will do well to dig out the report submitted by the committee, it had constituted in 2016, which had recommended setting up of a Defence Acquisition Organisation at an arm’s length from the ministry. If such an organisation is to be set up, it would make little sense to entrust the entire responsibility for capital acquisition to the CDS at this stage.

Sixth, irrespective of whether or not the CDS is entrusted with the responsibility for capital acquisitions, he would undoubtedly require financial powers for carrying out whatever other functions are assigned to him.

The present system of stratified delegation of financial powers under the revenue segment to the armed forces down the line, while retaining some powers in the MoD, is flawed.

Full financial powers must be delegated to the CDS and other functionaries in the armed forces. Each competent financial authority must have full financial powers to spend the allocated money for authorised activities.

The present system also requires the concurrence of the Integrated Financial Advisors (IFAs) for the exercise of delegated financial powers above a certain threshold. The IFA system is continuously pilloried, often unjustifiably, for being a hindrance in the utilisation of the allocated funds.

An objective view must be taken concerning the IFA system before the new scheme of delegation of financial powers is put in place, particularly for the CDS set up.

Lastly, the CDS is likely to face severe constraints in resource allocation as the need for funds projected by the armed forces has routinely been far higher than the budgetary allocations. The CDS is unlikely to be able to ensure higher allocations for the defence to overcome this perennial problem, which lies at the heart of the problem besetting modernisation and preparedness of the armed forces.

The scheme for implementation must, therefore, require the Ministry of Finance to indicate long-term availability of funds and the CDS to draw up defence plans within the indicated financial parameters. This could well be the biggest challenge for the CDS as he will have to withstand the pressure from the Service Chiefs, as operational commanders, for higher allocation to meet their service-specific requirement.

Much will depend on how well the blueprint for implementation of the CDS scheme is worked out by the panel. Even so, it will be good for everyone to recognise that the CDS cannot be a panacea for all problems faced by the defence establishment.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Amit Cowshish

Amit Cowshish is a former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence and a former Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.

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The Nation Can Count On Us: Army Chief After Two-Day Visit To Leh-Ladakh

“The nation can count on us,” said General Naravane after 2-day visit to Leh-Ladakh.



LEH (Ladakh UT): The Indian Army Chief General Naravane arrived at Leh on Thursday and proceeded to forward areas to undertake a firsthand assessment of the situation along the Line of Actual Control. He interacted with soldiers and local commanders deployed in difficult high altitude forward areas.

Also Read: After IAF Chief, IA General MM Naravane Reviews Situation Along LAC In Ladakh

The Army Chief appreciated the high morale and standards of professionalism exhibited by the units in safeguarding territorial integrity.

“The nation can count on us,” said General Naravane after 2-day visit to Leh-Ladakh.

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) interacted with soldiers and local commanders deployed in difficult High Altitude forward areas. He appreciated their high morale and standards of professionalism exhibited by the units in safeguarding own territorial integrity. The COAS urged all ranks to remain vigilant and maintain a high order of operational readiness,” the Army release said.

Later, at Leh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command Lieutenant General YK Joshi and General Officer Commanding, Fire and Fury Corps Lieutenant General Harinder Singh briefed him on the state of operational preparedness and on the logistics arrangements for the sustenance of forces in winters.

General Naravane expressed satisfaction at the efforts being made to ensure operational effectiveness and capability enhancement of the forces.

Tensions flared in eastern Ladakh after the PLA unsuccessfully attempted to occupy Indian territory in the Southern Bank of Pangong lake four days back when the two sides were engaged in diplomatic and military talks to resolve the festering border row.

India occupied a number of strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong lake and strengthened its presence in Finger 2 and Finger 3 areas in the region to thwart any Chinese actions.

Beijing has strongly objected to India’s move.

Indian Air Force Too Fully Prepared:

On Thursday, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria also made a visit at the bases in the Eastern Air Command, where he was apprised of the readiness state and operational preparedness of the combat units by the respective air officers commanding.

The Indian Air Force has deployed frontline fighters and attack helicopters, in the eastern Ladakh sector to tackle any hostile situation. From its frontline fighters like Su-30MKI to MiG-29, the IAF has also deployed newly inducted Apache attack helicopters and Chinook strategic heavy-lift choppers.

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After IAF Chief, IA General MM Naravane Reviews Situation Along LAC In Ladakh

Gen Naravane visited forward post yesterday and took stock of preparedness from with officers, JCOs.



LADAKH (Indian UT): Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Naravane has said that the situation at the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh is sensitive and tense. However, he said, the morale of our Jawans is high and they are ready to deal with all challenges.

Speaking to a News Agency, he said, keeping in view of the situation, we have taken precautionary deployment for our own safety and security, so that our security and integrity remains safeguarded.

Gen Naravane visited forward post yesterday and interacted with officers, JCOs and took stock of preparedness.

The Army Chief said, “the Jawans are highly motivated and are fully prepared to deal with any situation that may arise. General Naravane praised the Jawans that our officers and men are the finest in the world and will make not only the Army but also the nation proud“.

He said, “for the last two to three months, the situation has been tense but India continuously has been engaging with China both at the military and diplomatic levels and will continue in the future also“.

General Naravane expressed confidence in resolving the differences through the medium of talks. At the same time, he assured that the status quo has not changed and we are able to safeguard the country’s interests.


With the continuing tensions between Indian and Chinese Armies in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria visited frontline air bases in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on Wednesday and reviewed the operational preparedness of the combat units.

He also interacted with air warriors serving in these units during the course of his visit.

“Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) visited frontline air bases in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on September 2, 2020. On arrival at the bases in Eastern Air Command the CAS was received by respective Air Officers Commanding who apprised him of the readiness state and operational preparedness of the combat units under their command,” an official release said.

The visits of Bhadauria and Naravane come at a time when Indian troops have thwarted the Chinese Army’s attempts to transgress into areas in Ladakh.

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The Subject Of Being Atma Nirbhar In Defence Technology

DRDO has to navigate through a complex web of stakeholders and labyrinthine bureaucratic processes.



Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Vocal for Local” call and launch of Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-Reliant India Campaign), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has tweaked its capital acquisition manual to promote greater self-reliance in defence production.

On July 27, it released the draft Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 (DAP-2020) for public comments. The draft incorporates suggestions received from various stakeholders on a previous draft – the draft Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP-2020) – which was also put in the public domain.

Among other features, the draft DAP-2020 improvises upon Chapter III A of the draft DPP-2020, which was articulated with the intention to streamline para 72 of Chapter II of the existing DPP that facilitates the acquisition of systems designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

Will the Chapter-III A make a difference in realising Prime Minister Modi’s call for an Atma Nirbhar Bharat? The answer lies in understanding the issues surrounding the indigenous development of defence equipment by the Indian entities, particularly the DRDO, and then juxtaposing them with the procedures articulated in Chapter III A.

Since its creation in 1958, the DRDO has been at the forefront of indigenous design and development of defence equipment. The organisation, which has 24,700 employees, including 7,300 scientists, and a budget of Rs 19,327 crore (or four per cent of the MoD’s budget for 2020-21), is known for many remarkable achievements in strategic programmes, a glimpse of which was the recent successful conduct of Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test.

However, in regard to conventional arms, there has been a deep-rooted perception that the DRDO has not been so successful, even though the organisation, with all its human resource and budgetary constraints, has designed and developed a range of complex systems including Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Main Battle Tank Arjun, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket system, advanced towed artillery gun, and myriad other weapons and sensors.

In terms of value, the DRDO-designed products (other than strategic systems), whether inducted or in the process of induction, amount to Rs 2,65,007 crore, as of 2017.

Notwithstanding these achievements, the ultimate users, i.e., the armed forces, often complain about time and cost overruns and performance shortfall of the equipment designed and developed by the DRDO.

It is important to note that unlike strategic systems in which the DRDO has greater freedom in the developmental process, in conventional weapon systems, most of which are developed through the Mission Mode, the DRDO has to navigate through a complex web of stakeholders and labyrinthine bureaucratic processes which often work as a stumbling block.

The involvement of various stakeholders, which include armed forces and production and quality assurance agencies, brings an element of diffused accountability as agencies involved are accountable to different administrative heads.

The lack of synergy among stakeholders has been commented upon by various authorities, including the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, for its adverse impact on timely completion of projects.

More significantly, the lack of synergy has sometimes generated rigid institutional biases, leading to undue delay in placement of orders even after projects have gone through the rigorous process of development and testing. This not only demotivates scientists and the industry involved in the project but directly affects India’s self-reliance as the budget which could have been utilised to procure home-grown technologies is ultimately spent on importing arms from external sources.

The Chapter III A of the draft DAP-2020 has attempted to address some of the abovementioned constraints by articulating detailed step-by-step procedures to enable smooth acquisition of systems indigenously designed by the DRDO and other MoD-owned/controlled design houses. The chapter has identified 12 steps to be followed, ranging from identification of projects for the DRDO and others to award of contract and post-contract management.

The chapter also provides for the spiral development of weapons and platform so as allow quick induction of developed products and continuous capability enhancement of the inducted system through incremental technological improvements.

Significantly also, the chapter provides for Joint Project Management Team (JPMT) to bring a semblance of synergy among various stakeholders. Comprising representatives from the concerned armed force, design house, quality assurance and maintenance agencies and the Acquisition Wing of the MoD, the JPMT is intended to facilitate smooth progress of projects.

While the abovementioned steps stipulated in the chapter are a move in the right direction, they need to be strengthened further to make procedures more robust and conducive for timely completion of projects. One key area which needs improvement pertains to the power of the JPMT.

In its present form, the JPMT can, at best, discuss issues arising during the developmental process without any power to take decisions on its own to facilitate timely completion of the project. The real power is vested with higher authorities who are not directly involved in the project’s day-to-day execution. In short, the JPMT is not empowered to be responsible to deliver projects on time and to the budget.

In comparison to the suggested JPMT in Chapter III A, similar institutions in other advanced defence manufacturing countries such as the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and France are real drivers of the indigenous projects with necessary powers vested with the team to take decisions in the projects’ interest. Such an empowered arrangement would be desirable to promote R&D in Indian defence

Another area that needs refinement pertains to trial and testing of the equipment. The draft chapter in the present form lays emphasis on a multi-layered trial evaluation – developmental trials, user-assisted technical trials, field evaluation trials, staff evaluation, and acceptance trials – before a product is finally inducted. Such a multi-layered trial provision does not necessarily add value; rather, they consume time and money and not necessarily in the best interest of product development.

An empowered JPMT with the responsibility to undertake trial evaluation in its entirety would shorten the process, quicken the developmental pace, and enable India to become Atma Nirbhar in defence technology.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Originally published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.inhere.

Laxman K Behera

Dr Laxman Kumar Behera is a Research Fellow at IDSA. He specialises in issues related to Arms Procurement, Defence Offsets, Defence Industry, Military Spending, and Export Control. Dr Behera has authored numerous policy-relevant research publications. His book 'Indian Defence Industry: An Agenda for Making in India' provides a comprehensive analysis of India’s evolving arms manufacturing sector.

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