Dear Friends,

New Delhi. 31 December 2019. As 2019 is on the verge of passing away and the second decade of this century coming to an end ADU is also celebrating with the nation the announcement of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

It is considered that the CDS is a critical position in today’s era of hybrid warfare, and will help increase joint manship, tri-service effectiveness and overall combat capabilities of India. It is speculated that whereas the Defense Secretary will be the main “defence” advisor, the CDS will assume the role of being the main “military” advisory, acting as the single-point military advisor to the government and Prime Minister.] India was the only large democracy which did not have a single point military advisor; with all P5 countries having one.

Post Kargil debacle in 1999 , several committees headed by Minister K Subramanium, Lt Gen Shekhetkar and  Defence Secretary Naresh Kumar have been recommending the creation of a one point decision maker in the defence forces. India has fourth largest defence force in the world. Today it has Army , Air Force , Navy , Andaman  Tri services Command and Nuclear Command . With the new dimensions in digital technology it is not far when in addition to the above one would have departments dealing with cyber, space and special operations.

This thought has also been disturbing the powers – that – be and many a times unison / jointness in the three services echoed at various forums .The hawk’ eye may have noticed the multiplicity of resources in the services , be it logistics , intelligence or communication ! As far the organizational changes are concerned in the armed forces the Modi government made announcement of a Chief Defence Staff (CDS) from the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day last year. This decision was much sought after by the defence forces to improve the operational efficiency of the armed forces. This also comes with the formation of a Department of Military Affairs (DoMA).   Whatsoever be the reason , the present government has declared the creation of Chief  of Defence Staff who would be a four star general , admiral or Air Marshal , first amongst the equals. He would be mainly responsible for integrated defence planning , be it operational , logistics, utilization of resources , synergies the collaborative effort of all the three services , their restructuring , promotion of indigenous procurement  . The force planning , keeping the likely strategies in the future may be an important area for him to concentrate on.

One of the mandate entrusted to the CDS  is to create joint commands for effective combat readiness  , in a period of six years  , which is a easy to state but difficult task to achieve task. So far every service wants to have all functions , disciplines , resources and decisions under their command. This ethos would require total overhaul . Thus multiplicity , duplicity and ego would have to be sacrificed , then and then only this mandate would be achieved . All the principles of management taught in the Management Institutes are derived from the experience of armed forced from various wars and battles. The principles of ‘economy of effort ‘,  ‘ principles of unity of command  and unity of direction’ and the subordination of individual interests ‘ should form the bed rock of this great change.  

The CDs would be the Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister  . However, other service chiefs would continue to advise on their services matters  , as hithertofore.The CDS will exercise no direct command on the three service chiefs. In other words he would perform staff duties and not the line duties ; as per management jargon.

A key mandate of the CDS will be to facilitate restructuring of military commands for optimal utilization of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands. Officials said bringing about jointness in operation, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance of the three services within three years will be another major mandate of the CDS.

According to the existing service rules, the service chiefs can serve for a maximum period of three years or till attaining the age of 62, whichever is early. The government has amended Army Rule 1954 putting the maximum age limit of 65 years for the CDS to serve in the post.

These reforms in higher defence management will go a long way in synergizing jointmanship which is the main the aim of forming the CDS. It is but natural that despite best intentions and planning, a new experiment needs  to gauge the effectiveness and the role and responsibilities of the CDS. India for the first time in its history will soon have a CDS in addition to the three service chiefs. God willing one day Indian Armed Forces would then transform from Military Force to Military Power.

It is the time which will tell us whether this exercise is like putting old wine in the new bottle or indeed a newly invented wine !

Brig Vijay Atray