UPSC MAINS 2019 : Chief of Defence Staff

Chief of Defence Staff

Topic : Chief of Defence Staff

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Security Issues

 

Context:

Chief of Defence Staff

Prime Minister announced appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This could have a far-reaching impact on the management of defence in India.

 

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

  • The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “joints manship” in operations.
  • In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs. The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.
  • Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority. The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.
  • He is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President, and his remit extends to the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Defence Secretary.

 

Why had India not appointed a CDS until now?

  • India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured.
  • The senior most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.
  • The current Chairman CoSC is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who succeeded the former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba on May 31.
  • When ACM Dhanoa retires at the end of September 2019, he would have served as Chairman CoSC for a mere four months.
  • In 2015, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had described the CoSC arrangement as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”.
  • The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets
  • The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years. Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to dis incentivise the upgrade of the post.

 

Why CDS:

  • Long-awaited move– The issue of efficient management of higher defence organisation came into focus after the Kargil war in 1999 when K. Subrahmanyam task force highlighted the systemic issues affecting our national security structures; such as poor coordination and technological inadequacies.
  • Group of Ministers (GoM) in the early 2000s reviewed national security management. Though many of their recommendations were implemented, Defence management recommendations were not implemented.
  • Decision making process – Armed forces are not formally involved in decision-making on defence planning and strategy. Service Headquarters are not within the Ministry of Defence; they are treated more like attached offices.
  • New age military conflicts –The concept of military conflict extends beyond land, air and sea, into the space, cyber, electronic and information. Effective defence preparedness requires a ‘jointness’ of these forces. It also requires a prioritisation of the weapons requirement and optimisation of their resource allocations.
  • GOM Recommendations – Integrating the armed forces headquarters into the Ministry of Defence (MoD)

 

Appointment of a CDS

CDS was to administer tri-service institutions such as the Andaman and Nicobar Command

  • Strategic advice – CDS would provide coordinated military advice to the Defence Minister. He would develop the national defence strategy from a national security strategy
  • Established institution– Many democracies have the institution of a CDS or its equivalent, with varying degrees of operational control over their armed forces.
  • Accountability – It arises from the greater participation of the military in defence decision-making alongside the civilian bureaucracy
  • Defence acquisition –  The CDS can contribute to rational defence acquisition decisions by preventing redundancy of capacities among the services and making best use of available financial resources.

 

 What are the arguments against?

  • Theoretically, the appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness. India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.
  • Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation. In the US, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from first among equals to the “principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defence.
  • In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

 

Challenges posed by CDS

  • Authority of service chiefs – there is an apprehension that a CDS would undermine the authority of the three service chiefs over their forces. The establishment of theatre commands under the CDS in many countries reinforced this fear.
  • An all-powerful CDS would distort the civil-military balance in our democracy.

 

Role of CDS

  • Developing multi-domain military strategies
  • Strengthening tri-service synergies
  • Enabling perspective planning

 

Significance

  • The creation of the CDS will eventually lead to the formation of tri-service theatre commands intended to create vertical integration of the three forces.
  • This is expected to save money by avoiding duplication between the Services, at a time of shrinking capital expenditure within the defence budget.
  • It will help India in Defense diplomacy.

 

Way ahead

  • India should pursue the objective of indigenisation. India is still among the top arms importers.
  • There must be procedures to ensure that every acquisition is structured in a way as to strengthen our indigenous technological capacities.
  • Eventually, the three Service headquarters would need to be suitably integrated into the Ministry of Defence.

 

Sample Question:

Why India needs Chief of Defence Staff? Can it make Indian Military more lethal? (150 Words)

 


 

Chief of Defence Staff infograph