General Bipin Rawat, the first Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS), set high standards and, in a way, paved the way for his successors to strive for excellence for the nation by taking decisions without fear or favor, even at the cost of ruffling a bit of feathers in veteran service or fellowship. His tragic passing came at a time when he was in the process of bringing about a huge military transformation.
But the show must go on. Military personnel are trained to be emotionally balanced and never to fall into euphoria when successful or darken when unsuccessful. Military leadership at the top must seek out and create opportunities outside of crises. The next CDS is faced with such a situation. Of course, first, the government must appoint the new CDS as soon as possible. In the meantime, the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee will function as before the creation of the CDS office.
To carry out the heavy task, General Rawat’s successor will have to take into account the emergency at hand, maintain leadership, add value, create a favorable ecosystem of full participation and acceptance of change, and accelerate the momentum to diminish capacity and ever-increasing capacity. deficit with China.
Leaders will need to extend their reach beyond the traditional fellowship of service and should be able to explain the rationale for changes whenever they are essential in appropriate forums to avoid acrimony. Negativism, once generated in mainstream media, social media, or within the Three Services, provides ammunition for our external adversaries. The shaping of perception is an art of war. China has proposed its “three wars” strategy in which the formation of public opinion and psychological operations are the two essential pillars. For this, China’s target audience is not just the Indian military, it has perfected the art of exploiting vulnerabilities in democracies. This is one of the first challenges the new CDS has to work on with the supreme leadership, as a weakened civil society manifests itself in a weakened army.
Ongoing and imminent changes focus on articulation, integration, value for money and achieving better results at affordable costs. The current economy impacted by the Covid will be a major constraint for the new CDS. The tendency to debate only structural reforms is a comfort zone. There is not enough discussion of the objectives to be achieved and the methods to be adopted, which would actually specify the changes needed.
These are theoretically easy to understand, but practitioners should demonstrate results, all recommendations should be brainstormed, timely decisions should be made, validated through live exercises and / or simulations, and formulate policy proposals for appropriate approvals and rapid implementation.
As regards the role of secretary of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), which was also part of General Rawat’s attributions, the essential reforms are: Better structure and strengthen the military’s capacities to face adversaries in all forms of sub-conventional war; indigenization but without creating a vacuum in the army; optimize the resources and current expenditure of the three Services; standardization of procedures, processes and routine activities for better integration.
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The objective should be to strengthen tri-service organizations, to create and encourage the appropriate human resources for future joint operations in the kinetic and non-kinetic fields.
Does the CDS, as the sole adviser on military matters, limit access to heads of service to the supreme national leadership? No, the top management interacts directly on a case-by-case basis with the department heads when the situation requires it. It is their prerogative. Such an arrangement should continue with maturity, and the new CDS should feel comfortable with it.
The tangible gains of military reform are never sequential in their progression. While theater of operations commands are currently being worked out in great detail, simultaneously there is a great deal of hard work that goes on meticulously integrating the administrative, logistical and training activities of the three Services, procurement processes and the development of inter -Priorities of services for acquisitions, technological discoveries, operational analyzes of the current and future war intentions of our adversaries, deadlines, methodologies and capabilities.
One of the most important requirements for the way forward is to mold current and future generations of military personnel to abandon their traditional thought processes and embrace the appropriate changes to the articulation and integration between the services them themselves, as well as in synergy with other ministries, as modern wars demand. . The army will have to transform itself into a “field of action” well beyond studies, presentations and seminars.
The three services have their own think tanks while the Integrated Defense Staff (IDS) has a three service think tank. In addition, there are many contemporary think tanks which have tremendous analytical skills which should be used to help and promote thinking towards integration. The enrichment of these think tanks and the exploitation of their potential are also expected from the apex leadership of the Services, led by the CDS.
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The areas outside the CDS also have a major impact on military well-being, progression, consolidation and would work best if these entities were future-oriented. It is the collective responsibility of the Ministry of Defense to accelerate the reforms. The competition is with opponents across borders, and at a faster pace than ever.
The defense sector reforms envisaged are numerous, they go beyond purely military reforms, and it is not the sole responsibility of the CDS to redress the situation.
The roles, responsibilities and responsibilities of officials related to defense production and procurement organizations, DRDO, Defense Finance, Border Roads Organization, Department of Defense Goods, Department of Defense Veterans Protection, NCC, Armed Forces Medical Services and Armed Forces Dental corps are generally underestimated despite being important to the nation and cogs in the wheel of important reforms. Modern warfare goes beyond the sole domain of the army.
The first CDS initiated the process in its field; other secretaries have an equally important strategic responsibility to examine challenges and uncover opportunities by assessing adversaries, and must voluntarily contribute to making the system better than ever.
It is up to the government to lead and guide the mechanism to help the second CDS, along with others, to accomplish the national mission of defense reform and defense sector transformation.
(The author is a former military adviser to the Secretariat of the National Security Council and former director general of the Defense Intelligence Agency.)