The contours of India's largest military reform are slowly emerging. On December 24, the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) approved the creation of the Office of the First Indian Chief of Defense (CDS) along with a significant new organization in the Ministry of Defense. The Narendra Modi government had left the Department of Defense (MoD) untouched in its first term, but the Prime Minister stressed the need for higher defense management reforms in 2015. "It is sad that many of the defense reform measures proposed in the past have failed to do so This is a priority area for me, "he said at a joint command conference in 2015 on board the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. In his second term, he picked up this unfinished agenda.
The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) is the second most important aspect of the reform because it transfers real power to the defense forces. All three service centers currently function as "affiliated offices" of the Department of Defense under the leadership of the powerful Secretary of Defense (which is part of the civil bureaucracy). "India is perhaps the only major democracy that has the headquarters of the armed forces outside the government structure," noted the pioneering Kargil Review Committee, led by strategy analyst K. Subrahmanyam in 2000. The Secretary of Defense is currently the chief adviser to the Secretary of Defense's policy and administration issues, and is the first of four other secretaries in the Department of Defense to be treated as equal.
Army's Plenipotentiary Bipin Rawat, who is now the front runner for the CDS post, knows the limits of the powers of a chief of service who heads an affiliate. His plan to radically restructure the army by cutting off troops and building new departments is still pending because it hit a bureaucratic wall in the Department of Defense this year.
The official approval of this key item by the government provides for a four-star general official, who in the protocol is equal to the three chiefs of service. The area of his duties will make him the most important uniformed officer in India. For starters, the CDS will wear three hats – an individual military advisor to the political leadership, a permanent chairman of the chief of staff, and the head of the DMA that is yet to be constituted.
The entry into the CDS and the creation of the DMA will give a kick to reform movements. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will report to the DMA, proposed as the fifth division in the Department of Defense. It will complement existing defense, defense production, former wellbeing, and research and development departments, each headed by an official who is a secretary to the Indian government (see chart: The New Top Gun). It is not insignificant that the CDS or its deputy will have the same powers as a secretary of the Indian government. "This is a historic step because the armed forces have entered the central government building of the Indian government – something we have been asking for for years," said Admiral Arun Prakash (retired), former Navy chief and member of the Naresh Chandra Defense Reform Task Force ,
The government believes that "work involving only military affairs will be the responsibility of the DMA, while the Department of Defense (under the direction of the Secretary of Defense) will address major national defense issues." The division of responsibilities has yet to be determined – that is the mandate of an implementation committee headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval – but the DMA's charter to promote integration, cooperation and indigenization is important.
"It is the first time in India's history that you have a structure that is specifically designed to promote cooperation and the integration of three services," said Sujan Chinoy, director general of the Ministry of Defense think tank, Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA)). General Rawat, who is due to retire on December 31, is the oldest of the three chiefs of service and currently chairman of the chief of staff. A rise to the CDS would therefore not bother the Applecart in a rank-conscious and protocol-conscious military. The announcement follows after the selection of a new service manager is completed.
Insiders say there has been a silent power struggle between the civil bureaucracy and uniformed personnel within the Department of Defense, the latter fighting with all its might to gain procurement powers for the CDS. As head of the Department of Defense, the CDS will now have a much greater say in the government. The DMA he heads will have "the right mix of civil and military officials at every level," government officials say. It will promote the joint procurement, training and staffing of services, the restructuring of military commands to make the best use of resources, and the use of local equipment.
The CDS will play an important role in the procurement of weapons for the three services, but the real role in the procurement of weapons will remain with the Ministry of Defense, led by the Minister of Defense. Defenders argue that this is not necessarily a minus. "The CDS has been held responsible for the strategy-based restructuring of the armed forces rather than the takeover, which is a process and better carried out by the Department of Defense," said a defense official.
The CDS will establish long-term plans, such as the implementation of the five-year Defense Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP) and the two-year annual acquisition plans. He joins the Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), led by the Secretary of Defense, and the Defense Planning Committee (DPC), led by Doval. The CDS will assign cross-agency priorities to the capital raising proposals based on the expected budget – a problem for the government as the procurement lists provided by the armed forces differ from budgetary reality. The headquarters of the Central Administration for Integrated Defense (HQ-IDS) is currently performing this task, but its recommendations were not binding on the services. For example, a service center could turn HQ-IDS 'recommendations on acquisitions upside down.
The CDS will not command troops on site, only manage tri-service organizations such as Strategic Forces Command, Andaman & Nicobar Command, the Defense Cyber Agency, and the proposed space departments. Lieutenant General D.B. Shekatkar (retired), who led a jury that recommended the CDS in 2016, said it was important that bureaucracy and the military worked together. "In the future, the perception of bureaucracy as an obstacle to the readiness of the armed forces to be deployed must be removed," he says.
A key result for the first CDS will be a three-year plan with which the three services will be merged. This means that organizations such as the Integrated Logistics Command and a Maintenance Command will be created to provide revenue for the three services. The government has not given a timetable for the "theaterization" of the armed forces by reducing them from 17 different commands to just 3-4, integrating the three services. Defense analysts believe this will happen in phase 2 of the reforms.
CDS and DMA are the first of many reform steps that are expected in the coming months. The DPC will shortly publish a White Paper on the National Security Strategy – an important roadmap that shows future conflict zones that the military must equip and train. In his 2015 speech, Modi highlighted some of the future challenges: "We need armed forces that are agile, mobile and technology-driven, not just human bravery. We need skills to win quick wars, because we won't have the luxury of long . " drawn battles. "At the beginning of this process, he finally bit the proverbial ball – a silver one – to reform the Ministry of Defense.