30th December – Understanding the Chief of Defence Staff

In his Independence Day address Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.

Details –

The Union Cabinet has approved to create the post of Chief of Defence Staff in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief. The Chief of Defence Staff will also head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), to be created within the Ministry of Defence and function as its Secretary.

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, “jointsmanship” in operations.
  • In the United States, 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.

Mandate

The following areas will be dealt by the Department of Military Affairs headed by CDS:

  • The Armed Forces of the Union, namely, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
  • Integrated Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence comprising Army Headquarters, Naval Headquarters, Air Headquarters and Defence Staff Headquarters.
  • The Territorial Army.
  • Works relating to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.
  • Procurement exclusive to the Services except capital acquisitions, as per prevalent rules and procedures.

Background –

  • The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganisation of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters”.
  • The Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations, proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.
  • In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat. However, over the past 17 years, this has remained yet another nebulous department within the military establishment.
  • In 2011, more than a decade after the KRC Report, the UPA government, set up the Naresh Chandra Committee on defence and security. The 14-member Committee, comprising retired Service Chiefs and other defence experts, suggested a watered-down version of the CDS proposal, in which the Chairman CoSC in the rank of a four-star officer would have a fixed tenure of two years. He would have significantly more authority and powers than the Chairman CoSC, and would be a CDS in all but name.

Concerns –

  • The smaller Air Force and Navy fear that the CDS would be from the Army, by far the largest Service.
  • The IAF has long argued that unlike the United States and other western militaries, the Indian Services are not an expeditionary force, for which a CDS is a necessity.
  • The appointment of a CDS would also lead to theatre commands, another aspect that the IAF opposes, fearing a diminution of its operational role.

What is the case for having a CDS?

  • The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure. It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.
  • Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate. Also, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased.
  • The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel like in the US military. India has 17 Service commands at different locations and duplicating assets.

SourceThe Indian Express

QUESTIONThe Government has announced the setting up of a ‘Chief of Defence Staff’ which is being seen as an attempt to integrate the three defence services of India. Discuss the structure, mandate and background of the position.

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