[op-ed snap] The wrong reform

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Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Reorganisation measures proposed by the army officials and their impact on the functioning of the army


Context

Recent changes proposed in the army

  1. Two recent reports related to the reorganisation are being questioned and discussed by India’s military community
  2. The first seeks the elimination of the one-star rank of brigadier with potentially the two-star rank of major general being considered for the first level of command above the unit level
  3. It also speaks of the intent to have all officers of the army superannuating at least at the rank of major general, by time scale or selection
  4. Another report, which appears to flow from the first, relates to the operational and organisational restructuring of the army
  5. It reflects how a study is being undertaken to remove the division headquarters (HQ) from the hierarchy of formations that exercise command and control

Reasons behind the changes proposed

  1. The proposals are obviously budget-driven because the current, and potentially future, defence budget (1.47 per cent of the GDP) cannot support an army of 1.3 million without seriously affecting funds for capital expenditure
  2. The approach appears driven more by personnel management than capability based upon real threats
  3. The idea is to have more appointments in the rank of major general by tailoring command appointments with resources half-way between what a one- and two-star officer currently commands
  4. With this, it is intended to have more officers achieving aspirations of two-star rank, with commensurately lower responsibility

Arguments in support of proposed changes

  1. In view of tactical nuclear weapons being introduced in the battle zone, the parameters have changed
  2. Smaller formations with just 4-5 infantry battalions with some matching support will present smaller targets and retain the capability to strike up to limited distances, as against the concept of deep thrust
  3. Another rationale in support of the proposed changes is a doctrine many armies around the world are favouring: Swarming by multiple small forces, thus creating greater deception and forcing a divided response by an adversary

Issues that need to be looked upon

  • The command and control of the larger number of TFs than the number of division size forces by the corps HQ
  1. Many of the support resources currently under the division HQ would revert to the corps HQ
  2. Pre-location of such resources with the TFs would be necessary, while retaining control at the corps HQ with need-based release
  3. This will make decision-making far more difficult
  • Personnel management
  1. It will witness the greater complexity
  2. There will be a need to grade the command appointments of major generals as some will command TFs and others, divisions
  3.  Whether this will provide a level-playing field for further promotion is an aspect bound to come up for legal scrutiny
  • Many of the divisions at the northern borders also perform counter-insurgency duties by remaining split
  1. The TF system will cause numerous functional problems for them
  • Increasing the teeth-to-tail ratio
  1. In 1998, a 50,000 cut in the non-field forces was decided and was under implementation until the Kargil War cut it short
  2. The approach did not involve any large scale tampering as it only scaled off the bloated strength from organisations away from the battlefield

Way Forward

  1. If the army leadership is seriously seeking better esteem for its officers the non-functional financial upgradation is a better alternative
  2. It won’t create undesirable organisational turbulence and the social challenges can be far easier met than the functional ones arising from forced organisational change
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