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A long and well-researched letter by an MP to the defense minister shows the lacunae in this vital sector and the reforms that are urgently needed

By India Legal Team

Under the Narendra Modi government, the earlier moribund defense ministry has opened up and seen some of the biggest chan-ges. Considering that it gives overall policy for the very important defense sector, which is instrumental in providing security to our country, the changes have been hailed by all.

Yet, there is more to be done. Concerned about India’s defense preparedness and the urgent need for reforms, AU Singh Deo, a member of parliament from Odisha, recently wrote a letter to Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, highlighting the reforms needed. (India Legal has a copy of this letter.) These are some of his suggestions:

JAMMU, NOV 27 (UNI):- Army personnel rush to the encounter with militants in Kathar village of Arina sector near International Border in Jammu & Kashmir on Thursday.  UNI PHOTO - 67U


India’s combat ratio against prime adversaries is poor


SRINAGAR, JAN 30 (UNI):- Army vehicles pass a snow-bond area at Razdhan pass near the Line of Control in gurez sector on Friday.  UNI PHOTO-2U



Roads for defense forces must be constructed in a minimal timeframe




Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar





There are delays in defense procurement affecting the country’s security adversely, said Deo. These were at various levels because of red-tapism, legal interventions, etc. He said between 1947 and 1962, the expenditure on defense remained below 2 percent of the GDP, leading to a humiliating debacle in 1962. The layout for 2013-14 was 1.8 percent of the GDP. Little has changed even today. “There has been a gigantic gap in availability of regular arms, ammunition and equipment ranging from 30 to 70 percent. Major weapon platforms are nearing obsolescence. No guns have been inducted since 1986.” In addition, 16 major mishaps in the Indian navy during the last one year and the recent C-130 crash and other crashes in the Indian air force reflect the poor health of the services. “Further, combat ratios against our prime adversaries are at an all-time low. Our forces do not possess the requisite dissuasive deterrence against China and the increasingly important punitive deterrence against Pakistan,” the letter said.

Further, as per current Defense Procurement Procedures (DPP), it takes up to 34 months to conclude a contract and up to five years for any given system to materialize. The technology, which is contemporary at the time of framing SQR (Services Qualitative Requirements), would be close to becoming obsolescent by the time the equipment gets inducted into the armed services. Thus, DPP needs a serious review in order to deliver effectively. Deo said that the world over, the SQR system had been discarded, while India continues with this “archaic system”. He gave the example of how the SQR had fixed the maximum weight of bulletproof jackets for helicopter pilots at 5kg. So, an excellent jacket weighing 5.2 kg was not accepted. “It is very important that physical specifications should not be deemed sacrosanct unconditionally….operational needs must be met.”

Hawk Mk 132 advanced jet trainer (AJT) aircraft inducted into the Indian Navy, at the Naval Air Station INS Dega on November 06, 2013.

 The recent crashes in the Indian air force reflect its poor health

Sikh marching contingent jointly won award for the best marching contingent among the two services in Republic Day Parade-2015

There is need to re-employ and rehabilitate  retired armed force personnel  

He pointed out that the armed services were often saddled with mediocre equipment. Aiming to go for the lowest commercial quote, better performance equipment got no credit and became inconsequential. He says: “As a high-tech, high-performance system can never be cheaper than a common-place system, the Services are deprived of superior equipment that may be available for a nominal and acceptable increase in cost.” Talk about being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Then, there is the Performance Evaluation Matrix. Deo said what was needed was a procedure where the Services are asked to spell out minimum required functional parameters with the lower and upper limit specified. Additional credit is given for better performance. A scientifically evolved performance evaluation matrix has many advantages, he says. The buyer can set minimum standards and yet obtain equipment with higher performance by promoting transparency as all vendors know the evaluation criteria in advance and can view field
performance in an open competition. This encourages vendors to field their best performing systems since they are no longer worried about the cost criteria alone. Thus, they end up fielding their high-end systems, Deo advised.

Further, time factor was crucial and so the acquisition process should be hastened and scientific tools could be adopted to track its progress. Vendors who did not satisfy key or critical parameters should be eliminated. Even more important, as the defense acquisition process is a cross-disciplinary activity requiring expertise in technology, military and finance, the existing system where acquisitions are handled by unspecialized persons posted for a three-year tenure must change.

The DRDO also came for special mention and criticism. The letter said that despite 52 DRDO labs with 5,000 scientists, India was humiliatingly dependent on foreign manufacturers, thus becoming the largest importer of weapons. The organization needs a huge revamp and reorientation, it said. There was also a need to involve private sector companies, universities, IITs, etc in R&D. “While India can import fully-built Sukhois for $55 million each, it pays $68 million for getting them assembled at HAL,” Deo said.

India’s defense manufacturing too came in for criticism. “There are 8 DPSUs and 41 Ordnance factories, 6 regional OFB HQs, 9 Ordnance factories and 3 regional marketing centers. They have acquired a self-serving life of their own—a workforce of over 1,64,000. The manufacturing standards are derelict at best and wholly unreliable at worst,” Deo said. This has left a gaping hole in the armed forces, seriously impacting operational readiness. The answer, here too, was to embrace the private corporate sector which has made substantial initial investments in pilot projects to develop and manufacture weapon systems, UAVs, vehicles and radar systems. Also, the shipbuilding industry needs urgent augmentation, including those specializing in combat boats for coastal patrols. “China has over 500 shipyards, as compared to India’s meager 27.” What a sad state
of affairs.


Deo also brought up the state of ex-servicemen. Nearly 60,000 armed forces personnel retire or are released every year. Though steps have been taken for their rehabilitation and re-employment, much remains to be achieved. There should be mandatory job reservations in all ordnance factories and industries related to the armed forces in the public as well as private sector, he suggested.

Further, Eco Task Force (ETF) battalions were highly successful in restoring severely degraded sites, like limestone mining areas in Mussoorie hills, deserts of Rajasthan, Assam, etc through massive afforestation and tree plantation. They had been more successful than the forest department in soil conservation and water resource management.

However, they are not encouraged by the forest departments of states as it exposes their inefficiency. Deo suggested formulation of a policy in this regard. Also, “our paramilitary forces as well as state police forces are severely under-staffed and are in constant need of trained, efficient personnel.

I strongly believe that inducting young ex-servicemen into such forces would complement that demand”. He also advocated the one-rank one-pension scheme for armed forces personnel, which had been in limbo.


The Indian air force faces a severe shortage of fighter aircraft


An air show at Aero India 



BRO today is dependent on policy decisions made by northern states and on environmental and forest agencies for obtaining clearances, which hampers its strategic role. Deo said it should be brought under the purview of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) so that only the ministry has actual control over it.

Further, roads under construction must adhere to laid down PDCs (Probable Date of Completion) to ensure that operationally important roads required by defense forces in forward areas are constructed in a minimal time frame, avoiding regulatory route of sanctions and extended audit. But this doesn’t happen now.

Upgradation of existing roads and construction of new ones must be executed in small stretches (20-25 km) at a time to avoid delays. These stretches must be complete in all respects prior to moving on to the next stretch. Also, latest technologies to cut down time, effort and reduce costs must be adopted.

It is obvious that the defense sector has exercised the mind of Deo for some time. It remains to be seen whether the defense minister acts on these suggestions.

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