The author defines a synergising relationship between the two requirements that the forces are grappling with today: integration of the three services to optimise combat potential and shedding the flab that each one carries. He defines various areas where such flab can be reduced and the promise that integrated theatre commands hold out. Such integration has been difficult in all countries that have pursued the objective, and only a top down approach has a chance of success, in the General’s view.
CUTTING THE FLAB AND INTEGRATED THEATRE COMMANDS
The Raksha Mantri’s directions to the armed forces to cut the flab in their respective services have been taken with due seriousness. Newspapers report that the Army Chief has ordered a study on the subject to be carried out by a senior General Officer with the focus on logistics organisations and establishments in the army. Operational logistics
is also to be reviewed so as to arrive at an optimal model suitable for both war and peace. It is likely that similar studies are in the offing for both the Navy and Air Force. Given that such studies have been ordered earlier as well, it would be easy to slip into a sense of déjà vu. On the other hand, this could be taken as an opportunity to prepare a holistic model for restructuring, within parameters enunciated by the political leadership over the last few years.
There is a common refrain that India does not have a laid down national security strategy, despite which the armed forces are preparing to fight a two front war. However, it must be noted that since its inception, the concept of a two front war has not been debunked by any government or the parliamentary standing committees, wherein shortages affecting our ability to fight such a threat are regularly highlighted. This therefore remains by default, the unspoken term of reference defining the resources required by our armed forces.
Overall allocations to the Ministry of Defence have been declining in percentage GDP terms. However security imperatives continue to mandate new acquisitions and raisings. The Air Force has made its case for acquisition of new fighters and it is a matter of time before the Rafale and LCA start joining its fleet. Talks are also on about India
purchasing 200 FGFA from Russia, provided ToT and other conditions are agreed upon. The state of raising of the Mountain Strike Corps, current war wastage reserves, present holdings of ammunition and the status of various long range weapon systems to prosecute warfare at the operational level also warrant equal attention. With current availability of resources, it is clear that a balance will have to be struck between the three services when allotting the same. A review does indicate that we need to further optimise our resources or modify our concepts of warfighting to meet laid down strategic objectives, work on the same, be it in the field of doctrine, manpower, procurement or policy must commence in an integrated fashion without delay.
The single most important issue which would optimise resources and enhance warfighting capability manifold is the creation of integrated theatre commands. The Raksha Mantri has made mention of this during the recent Army Commanders Conference last month and directed the armed forces to consider the same.
It is unlikely that any senior service officer or veteran will disagree in principle over the operational, logistic and financial benefits accruing from creation of such tri-service organisations. It is however equally true that the consequences of such integration, such as major relocations, revamping of personnel with creation and reduction of senior level appointments in individual services, creation of new headquarters, sharing, movement, distribution and utilisation of assets ranging from land to housing and infrastructure are just a few of the many administrative and logistic challenges towards any progress in this direction. Any plan therefore for creation of theatre commands should have leeway for tiding over such turbulence without deepening inter service cleavages.
The last major in-house study on reorganisation of the Army – a series of ‘Transformational Studies’ – was carried out during 2010-11. Substantial work has, as such, already been done and some of it validated to the extent feasible in exercises. A major recommendation of these studies was for evolving a single point, streamlined logistic service. For various reasons it did not find favour with the respective heads of services within the Army. However, as a start towards integration, the Army which has the largest logistic set up could be tasked in concert with the IDS, to widen the scope of its proposed logistic review and examine the logistic requirements of integrated theatre commands.
The American ‘National Commission on the Future of the Army’ has recently published an extensive report in January this year The Commission had been tasked by the US Congress to undertake a comprehensive review of the structure of the US Army in order to assess the size and force mix of its components, amongst other requirements. While its relevance in the Indian context is more academic, the composition of the study group (which includes a former Sergeant Major of the Army, retired Generals and other civilians) and the methodology adopted warrants a closer look here in India. It must also be accepted that for any organisation, and more so for hierarchical ones like the Armed Forces, structural changes have rarely come from within. They have been ordered top down. The American Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 is an example. It is time that the political executive took a holistic decision on reorganisation of the Indian Armed Forces, failing which any individual tinkering by the three services will result at best in patchwork solutions.
Maj Gen Alok Deb (Retd)
(The General Officer has commanded an Artillery division. He writes on issues impacting national defence and international security)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BharatShakti.in)