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Military Reforms - For Total Revamp
Brig (Retd) G B Reddy
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Posted in Publishaletter.com By :
Brig (Retd) G B Reddy
Letter to the Editor Sent to :
Military Reforms - For Total Revamp
Dear Editor: Gen V K Singh latest revelation of offering of bribe is just the tip of the 'ice berg' only. Even the General has only touched issues superficially in his interview published in the Hindu. What is needed is the long over due total revamp of "the Indian Armed Forces". Mr A K Antony may lay claims to be "Mr. Clean" of Indian politics, but he neither has demonstrated political sagacity by calling on those with whom professional expertise is available or has the military competence to lay down the course and direction to follow. Let me highlight emphatically that holistic military reforms are long overdue. Profound transformations are sweeping army’s world over due to technology breakthroughs. Budget increase per se does not indicate modernization of armies. Some key issues to understand include: 1) Why are military reforms critical? 2) What shifts have taken place in modern warfare? 3) Where does India stand? 4) Who is responsible to manage military reforms? 5) What do they entail? Military reforms are critical since they constitute the core concern of national security. Historical wisdom is simple. Those armies win wars which adapt themselves to new technologies; others lose. Modern equipment requires specialized skills and capabilities best suited to personnel with technical aptitude; not generalists. Ipso facto, reforms follow a “cyclical process” – new weapons-new structures-new doctrines. The nation state concept following the Peace of Westphalia ushered Gen 1 of modern warfare (1648-1860), which was characterized by nations waging war against nations, massed manpower and people left out of battle. Massed manpower transformed to massed firepower during Gen 2 wars (1860-1918) which resulted in heaps of dead during World War I and set the stage for Gen 3 maneuver wars (1918-end of World War II) to follow. The end of World War II saw the dramatic entry of atomic bombs. Wars got classified under the rubric of conventional, nuclear and limited wars. With decolonization following end of the World War II, insurgencies erupted in erstwhile colonies with terror strikes to achieve ends. Now, world is seized by Gen 4 wars – super insurgency - with state sponsored and non-state actor terror to fore. Gen 5 wars are unlikely to resemble past wars. They are extraordinarily complex. Armies have to manage wide range of roles - space operations (ASAT systems), information operations/Cyber Warfare, missile defense, global C4ISR, strategic deterrence and combating weapons of mass destruction. Each role needs a separate structure like Space Command, Cyber Command, Anti Missile and BMD Command. Their calibration to function in unison - networking on 24 x 365 - is most crucial, perhaps, under aegis of Strategic Forces Command. India’s preparedness state to wage Gen 5 warfare is dismal. Preoccupied with political, social, and economic crises, leadership has failed to devote attention to military reforms. Consequently, present system is archaic and largely dysfunctional. In contrast, Obama and Putin are spearheading military reforms in their backyards on austerity plank. Our leadership too should take a leaf out of them and cut out ruthlessly archaic structures and expenditures due to ostentatious medieval ‘pomp and show”. Focus should be on reduction of “teeth-to-tail” ratio. However, experts appear on ‘talk shows’ on “CDS” in visual media as if it is the panacea for reforms. Needless but necessary to point out that there are two significant changes made post-Kargil Conflict, but mostly cosmetic. One, Integrated Defense Staff (IDS) was created in 2001. Two, Strategic Forces Command was created in 2003. However, at best, both are episodic building block exercises. The real issues remain unaddressed. How can armed forces manage technology age battles with structures at best suited to wage Gen 3 or 4 wars against adversary who is adapting Gen 5 warfare? The political leadership is responsible and accountable for military reforms. Politicians boast that they can take both a wider and a longer view than military professionals. If so, they must set the tone and tenor of reforms instead of policy paralysis. They must reconcile conflicting inter services needs. At least they must redefine the authority to declare war. Since going to war is a political decision, the Prime Minister must declare war based on collective wisdom of the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs and ratified by Parliament; not Defense Secretary. Budgetary allocations supporting reforms is political function, which is a pittance in comparison with other nations: US $739.3bn; China $106bn; UK $63.7bn; Russia $52.7bn; and India $31.9bn. The increase in the latest budget is over Rs.19,600 crores which offsets costs on account of 10% annual inflationary trends. Next, military reforms cover all levels from the GoI through MoD to functional levels. The GoI through the MoD is responsible for reforms at the Apex level – higher defense organization of various Departments and how the three services are organized for Gen 5 Wars – total systems integration. At next level, MoD should develop integrated tri-service structures and define mission priorities and strategies. At the doctrinal and functional levels, Service Chiefs should address restructuring issues down to sub unit levels for conduct of battles – enhancing flexibility, maneuverability, surprise and concentration to counter dynamic flows in battles. Reforms must address other shortcomings in the current research and development fields. Finally, reforms in the logistics arena with focus on optimization of resources. In sum, reforms should be holistic, transparent and all inclusive; not episodic. The existing hierarchical and functional structures on geographical basis, inherited from the British to gain footholds and expand empire, may have delivered in the past. But, they are certainly out of place to wage Gen 5 wars. Being inward looking sub continental strategies, they cannot serve enlarged regional strategic context and content today. The policies of “Buffer Nations” and “No loss of an inch” obsession resulted in eye ball-to-eye ball confrontation, which are redundant today. Dynamic shifts in policies and strategies to cope with enlarged perspectives and roles to counter local and regional challenges are an imperative. Structurally, a networked matrix model at the Apex level and task force structuring at operational level by elimination of intermediary HQs at least at one level with clear delegation of authority, responsibility and accountability - total system synergy – are an imperative. Such dynamic reforms are possible if the Apex level bureaucracy is replaced by national security analysts, scientists and technologists. At the strategic level, genuine integration by shedding shades of uniforms should be enforced. A new cadre may be inducted meeting specific criteria of eligibility in times to come. Networking is most essential. For example, cyber warfare – both offensive and defensive – is highly specialized subject. Generalists cannot understand nuances of ‘hackers’ compromising networks. Technically qualified individuals can only perform effectively located in secure environments. Even technical experts can only employ UACVs from remotely controlled safe locations. Similarly, anti missile and BMD system are highly sophisticated and experts of high caliber can handle. Three options are available for identifying urgently needed reforms: 1) Parliamentary Committee assisted by bureaucrats; 2) Inter services committee under the Chairmanship of Defense Secretary; and, 3) independent body of IIM management gurus empowered to interact with all those with stakes in military reforms. Those already in ‘activity traps’ cannot be expected to shed prejudices and take a detached view. Similarly, in-house reviews cannot resolve either the politico-bureaucratic-military or inter service rivalry. A think tank group of cerebral professionals – Generals to colonel’s and equivalent, scientists, technologists and bureaucrats under the aegis of management gurus may be assigned the task with the DM as its Chairman. The objective should be clear: design and suggest mutually inclusive structures for prompt responses to Gen 5 wars in tandem with Gen 4 wars for all levels. Mindset change must preface changes in system. Today, force level planning remains service centric; and interoperability episodic restricted to exercises/war games/sand models. Each Service Chief produces his ‘wish-list’ with the HQ IDS acting as forwarding agent. With budgets shrinking in real terms, there is need for making right choices and prioritizing weapons, equipment and logistics requirements projected by various agencies for optimization and not squandered in kick-backs and ostentation. Policies and plans should meet needs of prevailing/emerging threat scenarios. Interoperability is good for rhetoric but need to be sustained through integrated structures 24x365 days. DRDO, Space Commission, Atomic Energy Commission etc., detest periodic user criteria revisions. They must inspire confidence among users by demonstrating capability. In sum, the MoD/GoM should not prevaricate over military reforms. Otherwise, woe is to national security in posterity with possibility of repeat of 1962 debacle.
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