Article by Shantanu K. Bansal
The post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was founded in the year 2020 with first CDS of India as Gen. Bipin Rawat, former Chief of Army Staff. Going into details of the post and its background is beyond the reach of this article as it will focus on what more needs to be done in order to make CDS post more effective and relevant to modern day warfare requirements.
As understood by now the CDS main operational role is outlined as secretary of Department of Military Affairs (DMA) besides being called as the “single point military advisor” to the Government. The notification by the government outlined that the DMA’s mandate includes promoting jointness in procurement, training and staffing for the Services; facilitating a restructuring of the military commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through establishment of joint/theatre commands, and promoting the use of indigenous equipment. Integrated Commands can be a reality by the year end as media reports.
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Since operational role of the CDS is yet to be fully defined especially in backdrop of a crises like situation E.g. in a conflict when such post is actually required to be in action.
Therefore, as of now it can be said that the post of the CDS is yet to be expanded in its horizon and utility. Although it is stated that CDS will be head of all tri-service command structures, assisted by the Vice CDS as the deputy.
In order to make this post more relevant and effective, there are at least 9 “essential” Integrated Support Commands/Agencies which needs to be coordinated under the command of CDS to fully realise the idea of integration. These 9 shall be called as essential Commands under CDS which can be differentiated on the basis of support and operational role:-
- Support: Integrated Defence Budget (Planning), Integrated Medical Service, Integrated Canteen/Stores, Integrated Logistics Command
- Operational: Strategic Forces Command (SFC), Special Operations Division (SOD), Defence Space Agency (DSA), Defence Cyber Agency (DCA) and Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)
The newly formed Special Operations Division (SOD) shall report directly to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) but its must come under gamut of CDS. Similarly, Strategic Forces Command (SFC) which has to look after nation’s strategic missile inventory, its commander must be accountable to CDS for managerial purposes however the executive power will still remain under competent civil authorities on the lines.
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In this information age, where the likes of fake news, hoaxes as part of propaganda operations, information warfare etc. are taking place all over the world there is a requirement to have an integrated Information Warfare Command under the CDS, hence, DCA can be further matured to be such command, handling both cyber warfare and information warfare operations as detaching two from each other doesn’t make much sense. The focus should be on joint force optimization for combat in space, cyberspace, information, psychological, precision strikes and electromagnetic domain.
At present, the procurement of weapons and defence equipment is being undertaken through ad hoc annual procurement plans rather than being based on duly prioritised long-term integrated plans that are designed to systematically enhance India’s combat potential. The services deduce desired military capabilities and work on a common platform with a fifteen year vision, a seven year strategy and a three year action plan. Therefore, the capital budget should be a roll on budget (under the CDS) to cater for slippages given the present tardy procurement procedure of Armed Forces. The vision, strategy and the plan has to be approved by the government and supported with a committed budget.
The Integrated Logistics Command is already seen to be coming which shall also incorporate Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The Air Defence Command is another upcoming command which will largely be the responsibility of the Air Force.
Since the world is heading towards multi-domain warfare which it require support from every aspect of comprehensive national power. There must be some additional hierarchy reporting to the CDS and other three services chief where it is possible to have interface between civil bodies in operational domain such as official of Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence Research and Development etc.
There is also a need for creating a joint war room. Such war rooms shall regularly conduct training/ stimulation operations to validate the structure in a time bound manner. The war room shall have access to the members of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) accompanied by the CDS. The CDS shall have the responsibility of its overall management.
The present structures of DMA headed by CDS doesn’t reflect these essential command responsibilities but we except in coming time the post of the CDS will play a more effective role to get real synergy among the top-tier echelons of the armed forces, leading from the front, as we enter the era of multidomain warfare.