Ignore bureaucratic resistance and create a chief of defence staff


The Chairman
Apr 17, 2009
The government must ignore bureaucratic resistance and create a chief of defence staff

Deepak Kapoor | Sep 4, 2012

The Naresh Chandra committee report which has recently been submitted to the government - and is still being examined by various stakeholders - appears to have also found its way to the media with excerpts of its recommendations being quoted. Some of those recommendations pertaining to higher defence management, particularly relating to the chief of defence staff (CDS), do not appear to be in sync with the times.

The Arun Singh committee, constituted as part of group of ministers (GoM) in April 2000, recommended the creation of the CDS post since the existing system of chiefs of staff committee had not been able to deliver on important issues.

In its wisdom, the committee recommended that the CDS should be created for carrying out four main functions - providing single-point military advice, administering strategic forces, ensuring jointness in the armed forces and enhancing planning process through inter-service coordination and prioritising. The recommendation was agreed to and included in the GoM report. This was accepted for implementation by the government of the day.

However, when it came to implementation of this report, there was opposition to creation of the CDS both from within the military as well as by the politico-bureaucratic combine. While some in the military felt their identity might get swamped, bureaucratic resistance stemmed from the feeling that the CDS may become more powerful than the cabinet secretary. The political hierarchy, meanwhile, felt apprehensive about too much power vested in one person.

As a result, while a majority of the recommendations were implemented, including the creation of a full-fledged office of the integrated defence staff comprising almost 200 officers, its head, the CDS, has not been put in place till date. Lack of political consensus on the issue has been cited as the reason for non-implementation. Irrespective of the reasons, the real loser is the nation since a very important issue concerning national security remains unaddressed.

When the GoM recommended the creation of the CDS, it possibly envisaged shedding of some powers by the three services and the bureaucracy. This power would then be vested in the CDS to enable it to provide single-point advice to the political authority as well as bring in integration of the armed forces to create synergy, eliminate duplication and usher in cohesion in war fighting. However, it would appear that no one is willing or prepared to share his turf. The political hierarchy too has not taken a clear-cut and firm stand about the creation of the CDS.

The Naresh Chandra committee, in its quest for a middle path acceptable to all, has now jettisoned the CDS and has instead recommended the creation of a permanent chairman chiefs of staff. He would be selected from among the three service chiefs, with an equivalent four-star status. He would be expected to oversee the functioning of the strategic forces command, Andaman & Nicobar command and, recommended but yet to be created, the special operations command.

With the passage of time, other additional futuristic creations like the space command and the cyber command may also come under his ambit. It has left the three services and their chiefs with operational, logistic and training responsibilities intact. While this is a middle path which does not ruffle any feathers, it negates the very reasons for which the CDS was sought to be created.

Since operations would not be under him, he would not be able to provide appropriate single-point advice to the political authority. Being designated to look after the newly created commands, he would become an additional four-star, rather than the overarching authority toensure jointness and coordination among the three services. In fact, he may be seen as a hindrance to the conduct of smooth operations by the three services in times of crisis.

The proposal for CDS which came about after a lot of thought and deliberation by the GoM and was accepted for implementation by the government should not be dropped just because there is resistance from some quarters. It should be refined, made more acceptable if possible, and implemented, even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process. Accepting the Naresh Chandra committee's recommendation would neither meet the need of the hour nor show the government in good light, given its prevarication on this important issue.

There should be a clear-cut division of responsibilities with the charter laid down for the CDS, the three service chiefs and the defence secretary. Operational aspects, integration and jointness should come under the ambit of the CDS in a de novo redistribution of responsibilities. The apprehension of too much power in one person can be taken care of by instituting suitable checks and balances in the system. In any case, the Indian military has proved its loyalty to the Constitution time and again in the last 65 years.

There will always be resistance to change. Entrenched bureaucracies, whether military or civilian, will come up with any number of reasons in support of the status quo and to protect their turf. Both in the US and the UK, the creation of CDS equivalent posts had to be forced through Acts of Parliament, overcoming the objections of the bureaucracy and military. The political authority there felt convinced that the national interest would be best served by such a step. We could take a leaf out of their book.

The writer is former army chief.

The government must ignore bureaucratic resistance and create a chief of defence staff - The Times of India
Right from the horses mouth!

This is why the CDS can never come into being!

There is no doubt that there has to be a one point decision making authority in these days of modern warfare where synergy and jointmanship will decide the outcome of war, and yet on the other hand, insecurity amongst the bureaucracy and political satraps is equally a concern to keep in mind.

What is more important? A synergised Military or a fear that such a synergy will upset the bureaucratic and political apple cart?

There is no doubt that a maverick rebel as the CDS can make the pool murky, while on the other hand, not having a CDS would mean that each service would go its own way and waste time, effort and energy building their Empires which will address war as individual entities and without the punch and synergy that could make the effort to win more economical in terms of men dead and equipment destroyed.

Kargil is an ideal case study of the Army going in, and then the Air Force, initially reluctant joining in and going their own way.

Global Defence