Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Carrying out transformational reforms in military


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CDS and Department of Military Affairs

Mains level: Paper 3- Creation of Theatre Commands and issues with it

The article examines issues of national security like the recent creation of a Department of Military Affairs (DMA) and a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and also some focus areas like Threatre Command. 

Understanding the significance of  DMA and CDS

  • Through the creation of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the management of the armed forces, so far which was assigned to the civilian Defence Secretary, was brought under a military officer, the CDS.
  • The designation of CDS as Secretary DMA made him the first military officer to be recognised as a functionary of the Government of India (GoI).
  • With the DMA is now a part of the GoI, it would aid the resolution of organisational, hierarchical and financial issues faced by the military.

Recent steps taken by DMA

  • The responsibility for accruing savings to fund defence expenditure has been placed on the DMA.
  • DMA has floated two schemes aimed at reducing the defence pensions bill.
  • One penalises officers seeking early release from service and another envisages a three-year “Tour of Duty” for jawans.
  • Issues with these ideas:
  • Penalising officers for early release is likely to harm morale.
  • “Tour of Duty” will degrade the military’s combat-capability in today’s technology-intensive battle-space.
  • The need here is that DMA must focus on military matters and leave the plans of financing national defence to finance ministry or the Niti Aayog. It will better serve it’s purpose.

Another area of needed reform – Theatre Command

  • Theatre Commands stands for jointness and integration in the Indian military are varying degrees of synergy and cross-service cooperation between the military wings of Indian armed forces.
  • Objectives of the creation of theatre command should be:
  • To hand over the military’s warfighting functions to the Theatre Commanders, while retaining the support functions with service HQs.
  • To combine India’s 17 widely-dispersed, single-service Commands into four or five mission/threat-oriented, geographically contiguous “Joint” or “Theatre Commands”.
  • To place the appropriate warfighting resources of all three services directly under the command of the designated Theatre Commanders; and
  • To achieve efficiency/economy by pooling of facilities and resources of the three services.

Advantages of Theatre Commands

  • The Theatre Commanders and their staff will be trained and groomed in jointness.
  • With that jointness, they will be able to plan operations and to employ land, maritime and air forces, regardless of the service to which they belong.
  • For this to happen, radical changes are required in the content of our system of professional military education.
  • The Theatre Commander will also have the benefit of advice from commanders representing each service.

Issues with Theatre Commands

  • Two thorny issues are the chain of command of the Theatre Commanders and the relationship of the CDS (or his equivalent) with the service Chiefs.
  • To avoid over-concentration of power in any single military functionary, the system followed by the US ensures that the chain of command runs from the President to the Secretary (Minister) of Defence and then, directly to the Theatre Commander.
  • In India, the peacetime management of the armed forces is left to the MoD and the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC).
  • However, during war, strategic guidance to the military,  has always come from the PM.
  • In the system of higher defence under implementation, ideally, the Defence Minister needs to be brought into the command/operational chain of the Theatre Commanders, with the CDS acting as his adviser.
  • Due to frequency of elections and intensity of politics in India that no Defence Minister has had the time or inclination to devote his/her undivided attention to complex national security issues.

Consider the question “Examine the implications of the creation of Theatre Commands. What are the challenges in its creation.”


India’s military reforms are complex, the GoI needs to seriously consider the constitution of a Parliamentary Committee, with military advisers, to oversee and guide this transformational process.

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