Preparing For Battles Of The Future: Chief Of Defence Staff Can’t Just Be A Ceremonial Position
For the CDS to be effective in the tasks envisaged by the ministry, he would need to have full control on the decision making apparatus.
Quoting Defence Ministry sources, the Hindustan Times ran an article titled ‘Modi and Parrikar to decide on CDS role’on 24 December, written by Shishir Gupta. The article, focusing on the creation of a proposed chief of defence staff (CDS) position, essentially made three points:
(a) The government has decided to appoint a CDS, who would be a single-point military adviser to the political leadership on acquisition, procurement policy and resource rationalisation. The new post will not be used as a parking slot for superceded generals, and a new man will be tasked with the job once work profile is clearly defined.
(b) Work was on to create joint commands to optimise resource utilisation among the three services, and a step towards ‘integrated commands’, with structures synergised towards integrated operations. Converting the Northern Command into a Tri-Service Command was being studied, with no change to extant structures, but nominating one overall commander. Similarly, the future roles of service chiefs was also being considered.
(c) It was reported that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was studying the report of retired Lt Gen DB Shekatkar on making the military more effective with better teeth-to-tail ratio. It highlighted the general areas of redundancy like NCC, where more retired personnel could be better employed.
There are major matters of concerns with this line of thinking, if true, and does not augur well for the future battles/campaigns that the Indian military would have to face. It is not a question of ‘IF” but more of “WHEN”, India would face a military threat. A CDS with no operational tasks would be just a ceremonial figurehead, with no teeth to implement his ‘advice’ to the political leadership.
CDS As A Single Point Military Adviser To Political Leadership On Acquisition, Procurement Policy And Resource Rationalisation
The future battles require an integrated campaign model, and not some vague lexicons of ‘jointmanship’, ‘synergetic approach’ etc. By restricting the CDS to the above tasks, the appointment would only be ‘ceremonial’, as the structures of decision making on these and other administrative aspects would still remain within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and under the Defence Secretary.
The MOD consists of four departments; Department of Defence, Department of Defence Production, Department of Defence Research & Development, and Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare. The Defence Secretary functions as head of the Department of Defence and is additionally responsible for coordinating the activities of the four departments in the ministry.
Acquisition, procurement and resource allocation priorities are derived from the military strategy based on the military objectives that flow from the likely political aims. So without operational powers under him, the CDS would be unable to provide the advice as desired by the political leadership and could only result in avoidable tussle between the CDS and other chiefs. Such a situation is not desirable.
For the CDS to be effective in the tasks envisaged by the ministry, he would need to have full control on the decision making apparatus.The Department of Defence within the Ministry of Defence (refer Fig 1) would need to be restructured, with bulk of the functions pertaining to operational and operational logistics, intelligence co-ordination, procurement prioritisation and resource allocation for operational tasks, etc, transferred to the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) HQ, under the CDS.
Creating An Integrated Force HQ
Jointness, interoperability, joint operations, integrated theatre battles, have been a common refrain in the military lexicon during the first decade of the 21st Century, while referring to Joint Tri-Service operations. The major lessons that have emerged during the closing stages of the 20th century, and the first two decades of the 21st century have been that the success in the future battle space milieu would be directly proportional to the level of integration achieved. Such ‘integrated operations’ enables orchestration of an effective synergy to achieve a force multiplier impact over the battle space , thereby facilitating early achievement of military and political aims of war.
To enable the above, the need is to move beyond the realms of plain lexicon and look at Tri-Service integration at the force and functional levels. Such an integration would not only enable jointness of plans but would also ensure a better utilisation of the defence budget by ensuring standardisation of weapons, equipment and warlike stores, with a seamless logistics and maintenance back up.
An integrated assessment of the likely future battle space milieu would enable a cohesive perspective plan on force transformation and a co-ordinated acquisition plan. This coupled with joint training and staffing of officers at middle and senior levels (within MOD and the Tri-Service HQ) would enable a better understanding of integrated operations and a cohesive co-ordinated application of respective strengths to achieve a force multiplier effect. This integration needs to be done at both the force and functional level, and within the MOD.
A full spectrum high intensity war, covering land, sea, air, space, information and cyber domain, of limited duration is likely to be the future battle space milieu over the coming decades. Unrestricted warfare (or full spectrum dominance) with its hybrid/compound wars would add to these complexities, wherein both the western and northern neighbours would utilise non-state actors in conjunction with their conventional forces covering military, trans-military and non military spheres. To achieve victory in this milieu, integrated theatre operations would be imperative.
The main threat to India would be across its northern and/or western borders, with a complementary/supplementary threat across the high seas to its Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOCs), island territories and its eastern and/or western seaboard. The air, space, information and cyber domains essentially encompass the ‘force multiplier’ and ‘combat support’ domain and cannot guarantee any victory, without effective land and maritime forces to counter the main threats across the land and maritime frontiers. In this construct, the Army and the Navy encompass strategic, operational and tactical spheres of their battle spaces, while the Air Force essentially covers the strategic sphere in its domain and provides combat support to Army and Navy within their respective domains.
The extant inter-service rivalry in the existing system is highly counter-productive. Peacetime activities, such as Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), procurement, employment doctrine, etc are tailored for each service in isolation. In a similar manner, wartime activities of each service are planned and evaluated independently. These practices have resulted in a division of effort and inability to profit from economies of scale. More importantly, it has inhibited the development of modern integrated warfare doctrine. The proposed recommendation, as shown in Fig 3, envisages an Integrated Armed Forces HQ under a CDS/ Permanent Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (PCOSC), with 04 Integrated Force HQ, 01 Integrated Force Command, and 02 Integrated Functional Commands . Each of the Force HQ would be responsible for conduct of operations in respective theatres, while the functional commands for providing integrated combat and logistics support to the Armed Forces.
Creation of a CDS, without a wholesome restructuring of the Higher Defence Organisation (HDO) would be counter-productive and not have the desired results. However, a wholesome restructuring of the HDO suitably backed by the creation of the CDS/PCOSC and amendment to the relevant Allocation of Business (AOB)/transaction of business (TOB) rules would lead to a better Comprehensive National Power (CNP), and support India’s quest for greater say in the regional and world order with effective use of ‘smart power’ and CNP.
The AOB/TOB rules relevant to MOD also need a review to enable and strengthen it, thereby making it capable to face emerging and future challenges. The following aspects need attention,
- The services form part of the MOD and cease to be ‘attached offices’.
- The CDS/PCOSC should be responsible for all operations and for the defence of India.
- Creation of Integrated Front HQs, to cater for the threats across Northern, Western and Maritime frontiers, directly under the CDS/PCOSC.
- Re-creation of the military wing in the Cabinet Secretariat by locating the COSC/CDS HQ there.
The CDS/ PCOSC should be a permanent member of CCS (chaired by the Prime Minister), Defence Minister’s Committee, and the Strategy Policy Group. Posting of service officers within the ministry and equating the services with Central Services Group A, as mentioned in various committee reports bears mention again. Mere creation of CDS/PCOSC without a concomitant restructuring of the HDO, with relevant changes in the AOB/TOB rules would serve no purpose. The fractured and fragmented planning would continue as hither-to-fore and the CDS would be seen as another hurdle by the services to overcome in their quest for expanded relevance and procurement priorities. The need is for a structure that is inclusive of the military, thereby ensuring a holistic and focussed approach towards strategic decision making.
The restructuring affords co-ordination of effort, integrated planning, shared procurement and a reduction or elimination of inter-service rivalry. It will also provide unity of command, conforming to modern military thought. Individual services would change from relatively autonomous war fighting entities into organisational and training hubs, responsible for acquisition, modernisation, force structuring and deployment and operational readiness as a component of the Integrated Armed Forces HQ and as per the joint directives and doctrines issued by the CDS/PCOSC. The service chiefs would not have any operational role and thus would not exercise any operational control over the field formations.
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