Reforming national security decision-making

Force structures must be configured on a tri-service, long-term basis to meet future threats and challenges
SNIPPETS from the report of the Naresh Chandra committee on defence reforms have been appearing in various newspapers and have once again focused attention on the hollowness of the national security decision making process and the need for urgent reforms.
For many decades defence planning in India has been marked by knee jerk reactions to emerging situations and haphazard single-Service growth. The absence of a clearly enunciated national security strategy, poor civil-military relations, the lack of firm commitment of funds for modernisation beyond the current financial year and sub-optimal inter-service prioritisation, have handicapped defence planning. Consequently, till recently, the defence planning process had failed to produce the most effective force structure and force mix based on carefully drawn up long-term priorities. With projected expenditure of 100 billion US dollars on military modernisation over the next 10 years, it is now being realised that force structures must be configured on a tri-Service, long-term basis to meet future threats and challenges.
Early efforts
The Sino-Indian Conflict in 1962 had aroused a new defence consciousness in the country after years of neglect and efforts to formalise defence planning began in 1964. Various organisational changes were tried out:
Defence requirements were assessed on a five-year basis and the First Defence Plan (1964-69) was drawn up.
A Planning Cell was established in 1965 in the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The Second Defence Plan (1969-74) was instituted on a 'roll-on' basis. After a year was completed, an additional year was tagged at the other end so that the armed forces would always have a revised and up-dated five-year plan. This method was found to be impractical.
In 1974, an Apex Group under the Union Minister for Planning suggested that a steady long-term defence effort would be more cost effective and economical than fluctuating allocations on account of periodic economic and security crises.
Structures for defence planning
Most of the defence planning machinery and planning methodology was developed in the decade 1964-74:
In order to integrate defence planning within the overall economic planning effort, defence and economic development plans were made co-terminus.
The Committee for Defence Planning (CDP) was established under the Cabinet Secretary.
The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) was constituted in the Cabinet Secretariat to provide external and internal threat assessments.
Planning Units were also established in the Department of Defence
Production and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
A Planning and Coordination Cell was created in the MoD to coordinate and compile various plans into a comprehensive 'Defence Plan' for Cabinet approval. However, generalist civilian bureaucrats in the MoD lacked the necessary expertise to arbitrate between the three services and only succeeded in appending together the different requirements of individual services without any analysis.
In the services HQs, perspective planning directorates were established in the late 1970s.
In 1986, the Directorate General of Defence Planning Staff (DG DPS), comprising officers from the three services, DRDO, MoD and the Ministry of External Affairs, was constituted to coordinate and harmonise defence planning under the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
While efforts have been made to improve defence planning and suitable structural changes have been instituted within the defence ministry, implementation of the processes continue to be tardy.
n Guidance: The CCS, chaired by the PM, meets as often as necessary to review emerging situations with adverse impact on national security so as to issue suitable policy directives. However, the National Security Council (NSC), also chaired by the PM, whose charter it is to evolve an integrated national security strategy and provide guidance for long-term defence planning, seldom meets.
n Plans: Five-year defence plans are rarely accorded formal government approval. The Tenth Defence Plan (2002-07) was not approved at all and drifted along on an ad hoc basis. The Eleventh Defence Plan (2007-12), which ended on March 31, 2012, was also not formally approved.
n Funding: Annual defence budgets, in which funds are committed only for one year at a time despite five-year defence plans having been in vogue for several decades, add an element of uncertainty to the planning process. Unutilised funds continue to lapse at the end of the financial year.
n Coordination: The absence of an empowered CDS is a glaring anomaly. The COSC works on the basis of consensus and is unable to agree on inter-service priorities for force structuring and modernisation as every service wants a larger share of the pie. The services HQs make their own assumptions of the likely military strategy for future wars and plan their force structures accordingly. Consequently, the LTIPP is integrated merely in name and is actually only a compilation of single-service plans.
n Acquisition: Despite the much-trumpeted reform in the procurement process, the acquisition of new weapons and equipment by the armed forces is still mired in bureaucratic red tape.
n R&D: There is a dichotomy between the time consuming quest for technological self-reliance and the desire of the services to import arms and equipment based on immediate operational exigencies. The disconnect in the interface between R&D, production agencies and users remains unresolved. As a result, 'make' or 'buy' decisions are still contentious and DRDO projects continue to be delayed with consequent cost overruns.
Defence reforms
In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee headed by the late K Subrahmanyam had been asked to "…review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir; and to recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions." Though it had been given a very narrow and limited charter, the committee looked holistically at the threats and challenges and examined the loopholes in the management of national security. The committee was of the view that the "political, bureaucratic, military and intelligence establishments appear to have developed a vested interest in the status quo.'' It made far reaching recommendations on the development of India's nuclear deterrence, higher defence organisations, intelligence reforms, border management, the defence budget, the use of air power, counter-insurgency operations, integrated manpower policy, defence research and development, and media relations. The committee's report was tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2000.
The Cabinet Committee on Security appointed a Group of Ministers (GoM) to study the Kargil Review Committee report and recommend measures for implementation. The GoM, headed by the then Home Minister, LK Advani, in turn set up four task forces on intelligence reforms, internal security, border management and defence management to undertake in-depth analysis of various facets of the management of national security.
The GoM recommended sweeping reforms to the existing national security management system. On May 11, 2001, the CCS accepted all its recommendations, including one for the establishment of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) - which has still not been implemented. The CCS approved the following key measures:
Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) was established with representation from all the Services. The DG DPS was merged in it.
The post of Chief of Defence Staff, whose tasks include inter-services prioritisation of defence plans and improvement in jointmanship among the three services, was approved. However, a CDS is yet to be appointed.
A tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command and a Strategic Forces Command were established.
The tri-service Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established under the COSC for strategic threat assessments.
Speedy decision making, enhanced transparency and accountability were sought to be brought into defence acquisitions. Approval of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP 2002) was formally announced.
The DPP constituted the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and the Defence Technology Board, both headed by the Defence Minister.
Implementation of the decisions of the DAC was assigned to the Defence Procurement Board (DPB).
The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was set up.
The CCS also issued a directive that India's borders with different countries be managed by a single agency - "one border, one force" and nominated the CRPF as India's primary force for counter-insurgency operations.
Decision making is gradually becoming more streamlined. The new Defence Planning Guidelines have laid down three inter-linked stages in the planning process:
15 years Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), to be drawn up by HQ IDS in consultation with the services HQs and approved by the DAC.
Five Years Defence Plans for the services (current plan: 2007-12), including 5-years Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP), to be drawn up by HQ IDS in consultation with the services HQs and approved by the DAC.
Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP), to be drawn up by HQ IDS approved by the DPB. Budgetary allocations for ensuing the financial year (ending March) are made on the basis of the AAP.
Ten years later, many lacunae still remain in the management of national security. The lack of inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination on issues like border management and centre-state disagreements over the handling of internal security are particularly alarming. In order to review the progress of implementation of the proposals approved by the CCS in 2001, the government appointed a Task Force on National Security led by Naresh Chandra, former Cabinet Secretary. The task force has submitted its report, which has been sent for inter-ministerial consultations.
A fluid strategic environment, rapid advances in defence technology, the need for judicious allocation of scarce budgetary resources, long lead times required for creating futuristic forces and the requirement of synergising plans for defence and development, make long-term defence planning a demanding exercise. The lack of a cohesive national security strategy and defence policy has resulted in inadequate political direction regarding politico-military objectives and military strategy. Consequently, defence planning in India, till recently, has been marked by ad hoc decision making to tide over immediate national security challenges and long-term planning was neglected. This is now being gradually corrected and new measures have been instituted to improve long-term planning.
It is now being increasingly realised that a Defence Plan must be prepared on the basis of a 15-year perspective plan. The first five years of the plan should be very firm (Definitive Plan), the second five years may be relatively less firm but should be clear in direction (Indicative Plan), and the last five years should be tentative (Vision Plan). A reasonably firm allocation of financial resources for the first five years and an indicative allocation for the subsequent period is a pre-requisite.
Perspective planning is gradually becoming tri-Service in approach. It is now undertaken in HQ IDS, where military, technical and R&D experts take an integrated view of future threats and challenges based on a forecast of the future battlefield milieu, evaluation of strategic options and analysis of potential technological and industrial capabilities. Issues like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air defence, electronic warfare and amphibious operations, which are common to all the services, are now getting adequate attention. However, unless a CDS is appointed to guide integrated operational planning, it will continue to be mostly single-Service oriented in its conceptual framework.
The writer is a Delhi-based defence analyst