Think creatively to offset funds crunch in defence

Harsh V Pant & Kartik Bommakanti
The era of high defence expenditures is behind us. In the 2019-20 budget, the government allocated 15.47% of Central Government Expenditure (CGE) to defence. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, the share of resources allocated was only marginally higher, standing at 16.8% and dipping to 16.6%. It is improbable that this year’s budget will witness a significant increase in defence expenditure.
Herein lies an opportunity to think creatively . For a start, the recent establishment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) can offer a way. Since efficiency is at a premium in resource allocation, the CDS should guide the government on personnel issues, training, budgetary priorities for each service and even logistical requirements for the services. A key step the CDS must undertake is encouraging the establishment of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs), which are essentially joint combatant commands. The CDS should push for this in consultation with the service chiefs, including the tri-service personnel within the CDS and the ministry of defence (MoD). They must be geared to guiding, constructing and planning. Commanders of ITCs can bring efficiency if they have operational and some budgetary control over the forces under their command.
Additionally there are other pointers. First, the CDS with assistance from his staff could prepare recommendations regarding force planning that are realistic to the extent they reflect available resources. Although capital acquisitions under the terms of the mandate of the CDS are outside his purview, the CDS’ importance in bringing efficiency to other areas is crucial. For instance, the CDS can help develop initiatives that are scenario and mission-specific. These recommendations and initiatives need not be confined to a single service. They could involve missions undertaken jointly by the Air Force and the Army.
Second, the CDS’ role in bringing resource efficiency can also be extended to joint training and shared use of logistics between the services. (To be contd)