Parrikar Constitutes An Internal Committee To Analyse Recommendations Of Shekatkar Panel

By Anupama Airy
An internal committee has been constituted within the Defence Ministry to analyse the recommendations made by the Shekatkar panel in its report, submitted to the defence minister Manohar Parrikar on December 21.
According to the minister of state for defence, Dr S Bhamre, this internal committee of the ministry will identify the recommendations to be accepted and to frame the key action points as well as a roadmap for their implementation.
It may be mentioned here that the Committee of Experts was constituted by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar (Retd) to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces.  The Committee has submitted its final report in December 2016.

What’s this Shetakar expert Committee All About :

The Committee of 11 experts led by Lt Gen D B Shekatkar (Retd) was appointed by the Ministry of Defence in May 2016 to “Recommend Measures to Enhance Combat Capability and Re-balance Defence Expenditure of the Armed Forces”.

Exact Role/Mandate: The Committee was mandated to:

* To review training, administrative and logistics establishments vis-à-vis what is described as “best practices under Indian conditions”, the purpose being to optimise manpower in the defence forces and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio.

* Suggest “redeployment, repositioning and restructuring of manpower and resources” to improve combat capability.

* Suggest integration of civil infrastructure and resources into the logistic system of the defence forces in war and peace to “avoid duplication and reduce expenditure”.

* Suggest measures to “correct the bias of defence budget towards revenue expenditure”.

What’s Making News:

The experts committee submitted its 561 page report to the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on December 21, 2016 and is under consideration of the government. A host of committee’s recommendations along with the comments of the defence ministry have already been submitted to the finance ministry for inclusion in the forthcoming budget proposals for 2017-18. MoD officials said that the committee’s report will be an important input in finalising of the allocations for India’s defence budget by the finance ministry.

In A Nut-shell: A 4-star chief of defence staff (CDS) as the chief military adviser to the defence minister, devising an integrated war approach by the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, financial management reforms and doing away with the multi-layered system of according financial clearances (first within the finance division of MoD and then at the finance ministry), effective utilisation of resources and roll on of unused funds are some of the proposals of the Lt Gen DB Shekatkar expert committee.

Gist of Committee’s 120 Proposals and Recommendations:

Sources and officials in the know said the committee has suggested some tough yet path-breaking measures for the consideration of the government in enhancing combat capability while restructuring of manpower/organisations under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), a move it said can save the exchequer billions of dollars annually.

Implementation of the committee’s major recommendations over the next five years can save the government Rs 25,000 crore annually, the committee said while recommending that India’s defence budget should be atleast 2.5% of its GDP.

Doing away with the multilayered system of according financial clearance process—first within the finance division of MoD and then at the finance ministry has been proposed by the expert committee. This, it said, is needed for timely clearances of important proposals concerning the effective functioning of the armed forces.

The committee has further specifically pointed at re-organising the role of certain organisations like the DRDO, DGQA, Defence Estates, Defence Accounts, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).

It has also made recommendations on restructuring of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and has suggested bringing it under the administrative control of the ministry of human resources than MoD.

Optimal use and integration of manpower and resources by re-deploying ex-servicemen including retired officers and JCOs in various organisations (as mentioned above) has also been proposed.

“The committee has clearly stated in its report that some of the recommendations may not be easy to implement given the age old system and practices being followed …yet it is important to downsize manpower in certain organisations and curb wasteful expenditure… effective utilisation of available resources is the essence of this report,” said a senior MoD official.

This, he added, is a must to meet the urgent combat needs of our armed forces and in terms of providing them with modern equipments and weapon systems.

Indian Army is the third largest army of the world with a 12 lakh force and the committee has supported continuing with its existing manpower as against the other two forces. Officials said the committee has proposed retaining the existing manpower in the Indian Army who have been deployed to guard the borders with Pakistan and China.

While Restructuring of manpower and functioning of the above mentioned organisations are some of the major suggestions , this 11-member expert committee has also made recommendations as regards the funds allocated in the Budget to the three armed forces under the ‘capital’ and ‘revenue’ heads besides the ‘roll-on’ concept for reusing the unutilised funds as against its surrendering by the forces every fiscal.

The committee while recommending higher budget allocations for India’s defence sector has also advocated for increased financial powers of all the three service chiefs.

The timing of the submission of the committee’s report assumes significance as it comes ahead of the Union Budget 2017-18. “The report’s recommendations are being considered by finance ministry officials as important inputs to firm up allocations for the defence budget by the finance minister Arun Jaitley when he announces his Budget proposals in Budget for 2017-18.”

A member of the Shekatkar committee told that as allocations made by the government every year in the Union budget for the defence sector have often drawn criticism from both within the forces and outside from defence experts and analysts, the committee was specifically mandated to study this aspect in line with the existing and future combat requirements of the Indian Armed Forces.

“While the committee has recommended higher allocations in the Union Budget for the defence sector, it has also made some harsh suggestions over cutting down the expenditure and even close down certain organisations/PSUs, which it feels is wasteful expenditure. The massive finances needed to procure latest weapons and technology and modernise the combat requirements of the forces cannot come solely from the budget allocations…we also need to cut expenditure to meet these requirements,” the member said seeking anonymity.

He added that even if defence Budget is scaled up to over 2% of the GDP, it will fall short till it is balanced “through the downsizing of ongoing expenditure as also trimming the existing manpower and even closing down certain organisations under the MoD. Savings accrued from restructuring can be redeployed.” Therefore an allocation of atleast 2.5% (going upto 3%) of GDP has been proposed for allocation as India’s defence budget.

On the training front, the committee has proposed allocations of more funds with latest technology spend. Recommendation on having a Joint Services War College that runs a one year combined course for all the three forces besides having a tri-service Intelligence training establishment have also been made.

The committee has also recommended having the position of the four-star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) who it said be made the chief single-point adviser to the defence minister on military matters.

The committee has devoted a detailed chapter on the overall emerging security environment in the South Asia region, with specific mention of Pakistan and China. India needs to change its outlook towards war and should realign its war philosophy to meet contemporary challenges in the 21st century, the committee is reported to have said.

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