Chief Of Defence Staff

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Context

  • While delivering the Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, PM had announced the move to appoint a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • It is being held as one of the single biggest reforms in the armed forces which will help improve synergy among the three branches of the military.

Proposed CDS

  • A CDS will be a high-ranking officer of either the Army, Navy or Air Force.
  • The CDS will be senior to the service chiefs and will act as a single point of contact between the armed forces and the Prime Minister.

Role of CDS

  • Its primary role will be to work towards increasing operational coordination among the Army, Navy or Air Force and deal with India’s national security with a comprehensive approach.
  • It is also meant to streamline and prioritise defence spending to meet the requirements of India’s national security.

Current System

  • Under the present structure, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) coordinates tri-services issues. The CoSC comprises the Army, Navy and IAF chiefs and the senior-most among them acts as its chairman.
  • Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa is the present CoSC, but he does not function in the capacity of a CDS, being proposed now.
  • Other countries like the US, France, the UK and China all have a Chief of Defence Staff.

Committees Recommending CDS

  • Kargil Review Committee, set up in 1999 under the chairmanship of K Subramanyan, was the first committee to recommended the appointment of a CDS
  • The Naresh Chandra Task Force, formed in May 2011 to review the national security management system, recommended the creation of permanent post of chairman, chiefs of staff committee (CoSC).
  • Lt Gen (retd) D B Shekatkar, who is the Chairman of Committee on Combat Capabilities Enhancement of Armed Forces, in his report is also believed to have recommended creation of such a post.

Issues With The Current System

  • In the current system, the senior most chief usually gets appointed to this post towards the end of his career. As a result, he does not get sufficient time to bring the necessary changes.
  • Also, this system is considered to be inadequate since he has dual role as he is also the Chief of his own service.
  • Combined responsibility is not only overwhelming, often resulting in neglect and delay, but it can also place two roles in conflict. For example, a CoSc from Air Force might have an inclination to favour Air force service in resource allocation.
  • There is a turf war between the three wings with each seeing things with its own perspective and requirement. Effective coordination among the three is missing.
  • In current system, Defense Secretary is responsible for the defense of the country. This invariably leads to greater gap between the civilian and military bureaucracy.

Previous Reforms Aimed At Integration Of Forces

  • The first and only tri-service theatre Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) were created in 2001.
  • In 2018, Prime Minister Modi took additional steps toward further integration by establishing agencies for Space and Cyber, as also the Special Operations Division under CoSC.

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Benefits Of The Proposed Structure


• It will promote seamless coordination, better efficiency and greater effectiveness of the national defence architecture.
• It will eliminate the service loyalties or individual considerations clouding the judgement which in turn will help cut back infructuous spending.
• Duplication of assets in infrastructure and human resources, whether in training or in operational commands, is a huge drag on the defence budget. This step will prevent duplication, streamline logistics and improve training.
• The hybridisation of conflicts is no longer a hypothetical concept. Also, the information warfare and Cyber warfare are breaking the traditional boundaries. Hence, CDS is required to address the challenges of 21st century warfare.


Limitations Of The Proposed System

  • Can the proposed CDS bring synergy within the three services when he has no operational powers over the military?
  • The current proposal provides the equal voting rights to CDS as the service chiefs. In case of disagreement, MoD will arbitrate. However, if a CDS is to be a “single point advisor”, where is the question of service chiefs not agreeing?

Way Forward

  • Proper steps must be taken so as to ensure that the integration of the armed forces takes place not only at the apex level but also at the field level.
  • Given that the decision to create the post of CDS is now a done deal, it is critical to ensure that its constitution, powers, relation to other appointments and organisations is well thought out.
  • Since one of the most important functions of the CDS would be to build up the capability of the armed forces, the existing capital procurement system will need to be re-engineered.

Conclusion

  • A single-point tendering of military advice to the political leadership, and the execution of its decisions, will go a long way in addressing the challenges of the changing strategic as well as security environment. In this context, it can be said that a historic decision has been announced on a historic day.
  • A high-powered panel has been set up by the government under the National Security Advisor (NSA) to draw up the blue print for implementation of this reform.
  • Much will depend on how well the blueprint of the CDS scheme is worked out by the panel

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