Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis:
A Monthly Journal of the IDSA

July 2000 (Vol. XXIV No. 4)


Force Structure for the Army and Higher Decision-Making
By Col HPS Klair *


Woe to the government which relying on half hearted politics and a shackled military policy, meets a foe who, like the untamed elements, knows no law other than his own power: Any defect of action and effort will turn to the advantage of the enemy.

– Clausewitz



The present million plus Indian Army has grown from 3,50,000 1 at the time of partition in knee-jerk reactions to perceived threats. In the absence of any efficient institutionalised structure for national security and higher defence management, the growth has been largely incremental with few significant changes, which were the product of the perception of the decision-makers at that time. This systemic weakness may have a compounding effect in a country where no academic or educational qualification is necessary for political leadership and ministerial responsibility.

The bureaucratic structure under the political leadership presently functions on an audit basis–asking questions, on why the chosen course is being taken by the armed forces, without formulating or disseminating policy. No comprehensive strategic policy or strategy has emanated from this apex structure in the last five decades, with authority and accountability divorced.

In the absence of clear guidelines/policy, the service headquarters plan in a vacuum as per their own perceptions. The hierarchical command structure of the services tends to be grossly influenced by the individual at the apex without the restraint or guidance of policy. Thus an analysis of the force structure accretions may show a bias in favour of a particular arm corresponding to an individual at the helm at that time, leading some to believe that personalities and parochiality continue to drive the army. 2

These systemic shortcomings lead to sub optimal solutions, which run counter to the ‘value for money’ approach, that is an accepted barometer for efficient utilisation of resources. Improvements in macro decision-making for a large Army budget of 45,694 crores (BE 99-00) 3 will result in significant improvements. As per a SIPRI study, 4 ‘Indian security for the past 50 years has been marked by defence policy making sans strategic logic, long term planning and a sense of urgency characterised by opacity, ad hoc decisions and general muddle-headedness.. The decades old debate on reorganisation of the higher defence organisations and the national security apparatus, has made little progress, even by the Hindu concept of time. This is due to a lack of political will and inability to identify the stakeholders for reform and those opposed to it.

Force structuring is a complex exercise with numerous permutations, combinations and options, for a given scenario and resource investment. Any in-depth analysis would require the right inputs of costs, operational concepts, roles and missions, in a trade space broad enough to capture all the relevant structuring and employment options.

Such an approach must look beyond the traditional ‘threat based planning’ which an increasing number of analysts feel is inadequate; focusing on a few scenarios suppresses too many issues. Thus the multi- dimensional uncertainty (political, strategic and military) can only be covered by multi-dimensional approaches which encourage ‘out of the box’ thinking and examine options for changing strategy, forces and doctrine, using different methods for each function. Such a multi-disciplinary exercise requires the requisite expertise not only to fashion the options but also staff to examine the options in order to facilitate decisions.



Any examination of the Army force structure would start from the highest echelons of national security planning and formulation and work down to the manner in which the specific service grapples with its internal dynamics to evolve a structure that best meets the laid down objectives within the given constraints. Since responsibility and accountability should be proportionate to the ‘pecking order,’ major decisions with respect to the issue are taken in the higher defence organisation. This paper is thus focused at this level. Subsequent papers would complete the holistic analysis by examining the resource inputs and issues of threat, technology and strategy. Only such an holistic appraisal would yield the full picture.

The focus is more on the mechanisms, procedures, and decision support tools that are a sine-qua-non to go through the exercise of force structuring and arrive at viable and efficient solutions.


Functions of Force Structure

Force structure is the set of military units in an armed force or in all of the armed forces of a nation and describes in part the potential military capability of the armed forces or nation. 5 The emphasis on ‘part’ of the potential military capability, is to highlight that force structure alone is an inadequate measure of potential, till ‘readiness’ and ‘sustainability’ are taken into account. Each of these components has a price tag which has to be paid to enhance efficacy of the final product i.e. to deliver combat power during hostilities. Force structure helps determine the personnel strength, equipment and consumable supplies needed to train and operate the units, as also to assess combat capability and net assessments of relative combat power, thereby facilitating rational design of military force to provide maximum combat power for a given set of resources.

The military force structure of a nation is primarily designed to meet four political functions, 6 namely, armed suasion (includes deterrence, compellence, assurance, inducement and intimidation), crisis avoidance and management and the two rarely acknowledged but important functions of signaling and image projection. These functions and the relative importance/relevance of each aspect derived from national objectives and perceptions of potential adversaries, serve as the guidelines to arrive at policy and missions which help frame the structure, to meet the nation’s needs over the ‘spectrum of conflict’, extending from war to low intensity conflict, or any other such categorisation like war and operations other than war (OOTW). The force structure must not be seen only descriptively (what it is), it is equally important for force planners to address it analytically (why is the force structure what it is) and normatively (what should the force structure be in order to embody official and alternative national, foreign and defence policies).

The military or army is just one of the tools with the state to articulate power, thus its synergistic relationship with other aspects of state power need to be understood clearly to design and efficiently use this instrument. This has been most succinctly put forward in Cline’s conceptual framework for measuring national power as reduced to a formula: 7

Pp = (C + E + M) x (S + W)

Pp = Perceived power.

C = Critical Mass = Population + Territory.

E = Economic Capability.

M = Military Capacity.

S = Strategic Purpose

W = Will to pursue national strategy.

Since the real synergy is arising out of ‘strategic purpose’ and ‘will’, this must be a focus area for any strategic force planner. Our subsequent examination may indicate that this is our weakest link, which may be reducing rather than enhancing the efficacy of national /military power, thereby wasting precious national resources. Cline assigns high values to countries with ‘clear-cut strategic plans’ and low values for those without such plans. Thus the need to focus on National Security Policies and decision-making at the apex. This will not only help arrive at army force structure decisions, but also make this instrument of the state efficient in its output, be it by ‘use’ or better still ‘non use’.


Force Structure Planning Process

Force structure is a product of national security planning, which is larger than just defence planning and includes diplomacy, economic and other aspects. For efficient long range planning it is essential to harmonise the national security objectives, the forces needed to achieve them and the resources available to support those forces. It is imperative that this relationship is clearly established through a national military strategy. The military strategy is linked to the nation’s overall foreign and economic policies. A balance of these elements of national policy can only be achieved at the highest level with adequate inputs and options available. This relationship of military policy (includes force structure and strategy)with the National Security Policy/Objectives flowing from national values and interests is shown in Fig. 1. 8 In our context given the significance of the internal security dimension, it could be seen as a separate sub-head under National Security Policy, even though the origins of the malaise are external or ‘proxy’. This may help streamline and focus our response given the overlapping responsibilities of the Centre and States as also the compartmentalised thinking of the Ministries of Home and Defence.

The individual services must plan within the framework of the overall National Security Policy illustrated in Fig. 1. But it is a top down exercise in which subsequent steps cannot be formulated till aims and objectives at the top are clearly enunciated. A possible model is shown at Fig 2. 9 The figure illustrates the full process (to aid understanding) though issues at the top have only been addressed in this paper. Part II of this paper would address the specific process at the army/services level.

The above exercise would require a minimum of four sets 10 of specialists with each set/group having multi-disciplinary capability to be able to formulate a force structure. These in brief would be:

(a) Strategic planners–to set the demand.

(b) Conceivers–to define possible options.

(c) Decision-makers–to select options and allocate resources.

(d) Providers–to implement decisions and provide forces.

This logical, sequential and iterative process needs a well structured professional mechanism to follow the process through. The first step of this is to define the problem clearly and set demands or objectives which each successive layer uses as terms of reference. Without a defined problem demand and no terms of reference, planning can be an exercise in futility as we will see a little later. Most advanced nations have structured their national security mechanisms along the above lines to varied degrees, to yield efficient outputs as illustrated below:


To meet the new non-threat environment, the French approach was specific and clear cut. As a sequel to the Strategic Committees identifying the geo-strategic environment, the government took ‘decisions’ to peg the defence budget at three percent of GDP, professionalise the armed forces, quantify the assets requirement and operational contract, leading to restructuring to meet the new commitments. The quantification is specific so as to facilitate decision-making at all levels. The specifics applicable to the army were:

(a) Equipment

(i) 420 Heavy tanks.

(ii) 350 Light tanks.

(iii) 500 Infantry Combat Vehicles.

(iv) 260,155mm Guns

(v) 48 Multibarrel Rocket Launchers

(vi) 180 Helicopters

(b) Operational Contract

(i) Multinational major operation, 3,000 men non-retractable (NATO Corps).

(ii) National level 5000 men retractable.

(c) Structure ‘Adapted units’ as per contingencies against the ready made units of the past.


Defence capability planning is a continuous exercise. The present reform process started in 1985 under Michael Haseltine which formed the basis of the 1991 ‘Options for Change’ (after the Cold War). This was further refined by the 1994 ‘Front line First’ process. The resulting clarity of thought can be seen from the Defence White Paper of 1992 which stipulates their Defence Roles 11 (protect from external threat and promote security interests etc) in its overarching defence policy. From these roles flow seven Mission Types (aid to civil authorities, NATO and regional conflict etc.). These missions require three categories of forces (permanently committed, National Contingency and Reserve Force). The seven missions are developed into 50 military tasks which provide a detailed basis for deriving the overall force structure after qualifying assumptions are made. These assumptions describe for planning purpose, credible threat environments to provide military planners with detailed practical parameters. Expenditure control is delegated to the implementing authorities.


The USA national security mechanisms are well developed with legislation ensuring that it is effectively utilised. The defence debate is continuous, be it the MacNamara revolution of defence management, or be it the Nicholson Goldwater Act, Lee Aspen’s Bottom Up Review, the Quadrennial Defence Review or the pilot project for Force XXI and Army After Next Project.

The 1992 National Security Strategy 12 sets out the National Interests and the objectives that flow from each. The National Military Objectives derived from this lead to Regional Campaign Objectives, Operational Objectives and Operational Tasks. These help arrive at force structure decisions in consonance with a transparent budgeting system like the Performance Programming Budget System (PPBS).


In comparison we have no formal National Security Policy or Defence Policy, only an obsolete operational directive 13 to act as the sole guide. Force structuring is a ‘bottom up’ exercise starting from the services with each successive higher level sitting in judgement.

From the above it is evident, many countries many approaches, one common thread exists, policy guidelines by government ‘specific’ and updated continuously, missions and tasks carry concomitant financial allocations. In India, those in authority only check with no responsibility or accountability. Such an approach in addition to being inefficient in utilisation of resources, will keep the defence structure and forces in a reactive mode in perpetuity, inspite of the Defence Ministry’s belief that ‘the present system is working quite satisfactorily’. 14


National Security and Higher Defence Decision-Making

While all other sciences have advanced, government is at a standstill; little better practiced now then three or four thousand years ago.

– John Adams.

At independence the nation inherited the existing institutions and mechanisms which were structured to administer a subjugated colonial entity. In addition, with Indians excluded from the conceptual level of foreign and defence policies the start point was low. Each nascent department analysed its own specific areas and created a need based infrastructure for itself. Such an approach compounded the problem for any integrated and trans-departmental planning, with each department guarding its turf jealously. Thus national security was never considered within the overall political, economic, military and sociological framework, resulting in no comprehensive National Security Policy. Security remained confined to straightforward defence commitments aimed at aggression against territorial integrity. Any improvements attempted over the years were restricted to ‘defence,’ that too without a formal ‘defence policy,’ primarily in the form of individual service endeavours based on self determined security objectives.


National Security has been described as ‘that part of Government Policy having as its objective, the creation of national and international political conditions favourable to the protection or extension of vital national values against existing and potential adversaries.’ 15 It is the fountainhead from which will flow numerous specific government policies. These provide the guidelines for evolving defence policies, military strategy and ultimately the tools to implement defence policies, the force structure and decision-making mechanisms.

In India, national security has not been seen holistically, but largely confined to narrow military terms, leading to distortions which cannot be rectified by the one ministry which is seen to be responsible. It would first require acceptance of this holistic inter-ministerial responsibility before instrumentalities, are put in place. Presently the government is simply not configured for it. Our National Values are at the core of the National Security Policy which endeavours to protect and promote our Indian values and culture. This is based on our civilisational heritage of a tolerant, secular, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Since independence the Nation has opted for a democratic process to nurture these values in which the individual enjoys basic and fundamental rights and chooses his own government.

Our values dictate our National Interests which we wish to pursue in a congenial and peaceful environment. These interests expand from the core national interest of defence of our homeland and protection of our democratic polity. Protection must include shaping actions, especially within our strategic frontiers, which have wider connotations than territorial frontiers. It must be remembered that the relationship among states is that of competition and self-help and moral causes frequently articulated are only a means to an end. Our National Interests have been defined ‘as preserving the core values of the nation from external aggression and internal subversion,’ 16 amplified as:

(a) Defence of national territory over land, sea and air, encompassing among others the inviolability of our land borders, island territories, offshore assets and our maritime trade routes.

(b) To secure an internal environment whereby our Nation State is insured against any threat to its unity or progress on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity or economic dissonance.

(c) To enable our country to exercise a degree of influence over the nations in our immediate neighbourhood to promote harmonious relationship in line with our national interests.

(f) To be able to effectively contribute towards regional and international stability.

(e) To possess an effective out of the country contingency capability to prevent destabilisation of the small nations in our immediate neighbourhood that could have adverse security implications for us.

The above is virtually the sum total of firm government policy guidance for the defence forces as there is no written government defence policy. 17 National interest formulation must avoid the trap of being restricted to the easy to comprehend ‘territorial’ connotations. The aspects of political sovereignty, ideological freedom and economic prosperity are at the very core of the issue. It is only a holistic appraisal of these aspects of national interests that will help us formulate national objectives which are essential to serve as the guidelines for our National Security and Defence Policies. It is essential to transcend the mush of ‘idealistic rhetoric and deal in straight power concepts’ 18 for policy formulation. This facilitates the iterative process, e.g. National Objectives which are a product of national values and interests have not been articulated by the government (they have been attempted by a number of strategic thinkers). 19

Strategic Culture

Conversion or translation of the national interests and objectives into a viable National Security Policy is not purely a management exercise. It is also dependent on the ruling elite which leverages the various institutions like the legislature, decision-making centers and the budgetary process to incorporate its interests and perceptions. Thus an understanding of our strategic culture which shapes policy and decision-making is essential to understand the process and mechanisms.

Indian strategic thinking reflects and takes direction from its centuries old culture. Nehru summarised this when he wrote that ‘ancient India like ancient China was a world in itself, a culture and a civilization which gave shape to all things. Foreign influences poured in and often influenced that culture and was absorbed. Disruptive tendencies gave rise immediately to an attempt to find a synthesis.’ 20

There have been few periods like the Mauryan Empire of the fourth and third centuries BC when India was governed by a central indigenous ruling authority. Culture is the cohesive element that identifies the Indian identity and state. A historical analogy of the modern European Union.

The Indian concept of Dharma, Karma and transmigration can lead to a passive, almost fatalistic acceptance of life. The acceptance of life as a mystery and an inability to manipulate events impedes preparation for the future in all areas of life, including strategic. In addition the accommodative and forgiving milieu originating from Jain, Buddhist and Vaishnav-Bhakti influences has led to ‘excessive and at times ersatz pacifism’. 21 This was compounded by ahimsa or non-violence of the freedom struggle.

The British period which gave us many nationalistic conceptualisations and most of our institutions, excluded Indians from conceptualising foreign and defence policies. Thus at independence, personnel specialising in these fields were almost entirely non-existent. This was followed by seventeen years of Nehru dominating foreign policy with his idealistic romanticism and not focused on the relentless pursuit of one’s own national interest. Such a foreign policy provided little guidance for defence policy, an area in which Nehru’s neglect was complete.

This is best illustrated by his retort when first presented an outline plan for the growth of the Indian Army in light of an assessment of threats by its first Commander-in-Chief Gen. Sir Robert Lockhart ; ‘we don't need a defence plan. Our policy is non-violence. We face no military threats. Scrap the army. The police are good enough to meet our security needs.’ 22

However such factors should not be used as an alibi and constrain a nation if its institutions are functional. This was summed up by Mr K Subrahmanyam who wrote that “such pronouncements at leadership level (Nehru) should not have inhibited intensive (internal) debates on (the) country’s security problems and a detailed, professional consideration of measures to safeguard the country’s security. But the innate sycophancy, mediocrity and indolence of political leadership at various levels, the civil and military bureaucracy, academia and media converted Nehru’s pronouncement into a convenient alibi for inaction and the lack of cerebration. These weaknesses still persist in the Indian polity and the risks are far higher now than in the Nehru period.’ 23

The weakness is not so much in individuals but collectively in the institutions or the lack of them. Indians, ‘with their talent for analysis and conceptualisation, seem admirably equipped for strategic thinking.It is the forces of culture, history and the attitude and policies of the independent Indian Government which have worked against the concept of strategic thinking and planning’. 24 This is compounded by a work culture, ethos and rules which do not fix responsibility and accountability and hence carry no penalties for inaction. One thus observes the hard work and brilliance of Indians exploited abroad, where the environmental factors are different and more rewarding.

National Security Decision-Making

Decision-making is at the core of all planned activities ‘a process of choosing between alternatives, to achieve a goal.’ 25 Herbert A Simon a decision theorist and Nobel laureate has identified three phases of a decision as information gathering, generation of alternatives and selection of alternatives. This may appear elementary, but not so to the government when we measure our decision-making mechanisms against this process, especially the design activity of generating alternatives, which comprises inventing, developing and analysis of possible courses of action. Presently our focus frequently is on an option, which we tend to accept, reject or modify, without much thought to generating new/alternative options.

Strategic decisions are generally ‘analytical’ or ‘adaptive’ decisions. They involve a high degree of complexity given the large numbers of decision variables. Management science and quantitative techniques have relevance and are helpful, but at the apex we must remember that ‘strategic planning is an art and craft, not a science’, 26 which is creative and integrative. It requires ‘right-brain thinking’ characterised by creativity, intuition, holistic visualisation and open-mindedness. This complexity and multivariate nature requires a vast variety of data and the quality of coordination effort dictates the quality of the outcome. Coordination not only means getting at various sources of information and expertise, but refers primarily to integration and analysis.

No matter how incisive the decision-maker, or the degree of his integrity, he is not immune and cannot be impervious to basic behavioural processes of a cognitive and motivational nature which invariably must influence him. Acceptance of this makes it incumbent on the decision-maker to create formal advisory bodies with proper professional and staff competence. He must also be aware that such steps are frequently prevented by existing structures who stand to lose authority or have their decisions scrutinised professionally.

Some of the common deficiencies in most national security decision-making structures as relevant to us are:

(a) Lack of clear definition of the goals and aims of national security policy.

(b) A ‘here and now’ approach, vis-a-vis overall national planning with a long term perspective.

(c) Each problem dealt with individually with an eye to specific and immediate goals. An overall view or examination is lacking.

(d) Only pressing issues are examined and neglect of issues of a hypothetical nature. Hence when an issue suddenly becomes urgent, it is decided without time for in-depth study.

These deficiencies are a product of structural and organisational deficiencies like:

(a) The sponsoring agency develops a ‘preferred policy’ and not ‘options’ for the decision-maker.

(b) Evaluation of the plan is done mainly by the advocates thus denying the decision-maker impartial advice. Only a single channel of information is available.

(c) The policy making organisation is characterised by hierarchy, division of labour and specialisation, hence the decision may be more responsive to the internal dynamics of the bureaucratic process than to the requirement of policy itself.

Key national security decisions from which would flow a force structure and its subsequent use, are arrived at the apex level i.e. the PM and the Cabinet. It is therefore imperative that the procedures and mechanisms must exist for performing such an evaluation, coordination and integration at the highest level, as well as the task of improving the quality of information, analysis and advice available to the PM and the cabinet body (CCPA/CCS) for making important national security decisions.

Many models exist, of which the American National Security structure is possibly the best developed. While it is a product of a presidential system of government, the functions of each element of the structure are relevant to any model from the management point of view. The British, French and German models endeavour to achieve similar goals in a parliamentary system.

The British and French have a Cabinet Committee headed by the PM/President, with a composition similar to our Cabinet Committee on Security. They however have a dedicated staff. In Britain this staff of the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee (DOPC) is a separate section of the Cabinet Secretariat known as the Overseas and Defence Secretariat. Its high ranking staff include 14 members of the diplomatic service seconded from the foreign ministry, seven officials of the MOD and nine ranking military officers seconded from the armed services. 27 The German model too is similar, their Federal Chancellery or Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) akin to our Cabinet Secretariat, but though responsible to the Chancellor, the head of the BKA is a full cabinet minister (the equivalent of Willy Brandt’s Kissinger). 28 The BKA has five separate sections, one of which supports the Federal Security Council, responsible for national security decision-making.


Higher Defence Organisation

The present higher defence organisation in India is as shown in Fig. 3 below:

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) is the highest mechanism for formulating and articulating a National Security Policy from which would flow the defence policy and strategy. This committee or the CCPA ‘has shown little inclination in fulfilling this responsibility, a reluctance that amounts almost to a dereliction of duty on their part.’ 29 In the absence of such guidance, coordinated policies and actions by the ministries of External Affairs, Home and Defence are not possible. In the present age of coalition governments, internal regional issues will continue to gain importance for the political leadership and only institutional mechanisms can address the problem. The committee is severely handicapped by the absence of a permanent supporting staff. The Cabinet Secretariat responsible for coordination of policy at the highest level cannot and has not provided the focussed support required.

The British model, on which our parliamentary committees and bureaucratic services are modeled has a Defence and Overseas Policy Committee (DOPC) to oversee defence, foreign and national security matters. It is chaired by the PM and its members include the ministers responsible for Defence, Foreign and Home Affairs. The Chiefs of Staff are in attendance, as required, to tender professional military advice. Staff support is provided by the Overseas and Defence Secretariat.

National Security Council (NSC)

The NSC is the only silver lining to an abysmal defence and national security picture in years. However the NSC will remain largely ineffective in the absence of professional staff support. The present arrangement of converting the Joint Intelligence Committee into the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) 30 is unlikely to meet the multi-disciplinary requirements of a professional staff necessary to facilitate decisions like the force structure, strategy or doctrine.

The expertise of the National Security Advisory Board however will help formulate policy guidelines. The Draft Nuclear Doctrine and the yet to be released Strategic Defence Review 31 being a case in point. Even with the governments inability to evaluate and formulise the same due to lack of professional staff, they are likely to serve as de facto policy, an improvement on no policy. The Strategic Policy Group (SPG) chaired by the Cabinet Secretary is tasked to assist the NSC and be the ‘principal mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination,’ and to undertake the long-term strategic defence review on ‘priority’. Its formulation can serve as a test case of its efficiency, though it’s ability to achieve inter-ministerial coordination is limited.

Ministry Of Defence (MOD)

The structure below this level for the purpose of this paper largely pertains to one ministry, the MOD. The principal task of the MOD is to obtain policy directions of the Government on all defence and security related matters and communicate them for implementation to the Service Headquarters, inter-service organisations, production establishments and Research and Development Organisations. It is also required to ensure effective implementation of the Governments policy directions and the execution of approved programmes within the allocated resources. 32 The issues of Army force structure are dealt with by a Joint Secretary working directly under the Defence Secretary.

The present structure as per many analysts is unworkable. The post- Independence reorganisation carried out as per the recommendations of Lord Ismay has the Service Headquarters and the MOD working virtually independently with the services excluded from the decision-making process. This has been pointed out by parliamentary committees and to quote just one political authority in government, ‘there is no horizontal integration between the Service Headquarters and the Defence Ministry, and as early prejudices have now got layered over by bureaucratic one-up-manship, a combative mentality has grown between the Service Headquaters and the Ministry. Such an attitude has its own damaging consequences, the Defence Ministry, in effect, becomes the principal destroyer of the cutting edge of the military’s morale; ironic considering that the very reverse of it is their responsibility. The sword arm of the state gets blunted by the state itself. So marked is resistance then to change here, and so deep the mutual suspicions, inertia and antipathy that all efforts at reforming the system have always floundered against a rock of ossified thought. 33

Defence Planning Staff (DPS)

The DPS is an inter service organisation under the MOD. In addition to service representatives, it is authorised on its staff representatives from finance and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Given its status in the MOD hierarchy no MEA or finance representative is posted and thus functions primarily as a post office compiling the services plans and forwarding the same to the MOD in addition to performing some functions on behalf of the Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Theoretically the defence planning is initiated by the DPS by carrying out an assessment of the Strategic and Technological Environment of the country. The services plans are integrated at the DPS and forwarded to the MOD. From here they are sent for consideration of the Government/CCPA for approval, in consultation with all other concerned agencies. The army/service Perspective Plan is for 15 years and a five years defence plan is approved by the government (Seventh Defence Plan not approved, Eight Defence plan approved in its last year and the Ninth defence plan approved but at unrealistic funding levels as the recent revision indicates).

Army Headquarters

The Army Headquarters have for their planning of force structure the undermentioned:

(a) No formal written defence policy. Only a four point guideline on Defence Policy given to parliament by the PM in 1995.

(b) A Strategic and Technological Environment Assessment prepared by the DPS (if prepared).

(c) An operational directive from the MOD (which cannot be equated with a policy on National Security). 34

(d) A past trend of eleven percent increase in defence expenditure well below the increase in defence inflation.

(e) Directions issued by the political authority carry no concomitant assurance about the availability of resources necessary to transform them into reality.

(f) An internal paper on Defence Strategy without the sanctity of government/CCPA approval. 35

It is hence evident that the army/services plan in a virtual vacuum. The few directions that exist carry no concomitant assurance about the availability of resources. Thus proposals made by the Services are projected to the government and the process assumes the form of a hurdle race at each desk in the MOD, Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s secretariat before being presented to the CCPA. The decision-making process obviously gets prolonged and in some cases it is years before a decision might be taken.

The aspects of decision-making within the army in formulating force structure proposals will be covered in a subsequent paper after discussing the budgetary/financial process to understand aspects like how ‘sunk costs’ drag against change and how existing mechanisms do not highlight opportunity costs, especially in new technologies.

Shortcomings in Existing System

At the heart of the system there are certain organisational flaws as also our poor work culture assisted by rules to protect the inefficient, which need to be addressed. Without this even efficiently structured organisations will be rendered ineffective. Some of these aspects are:

(a) Lack of integrated long term national security approach stands out as a prominent failure of Indian nation building. 36

(b) Some believe, ‘India’s decision-making apparatus in matters of defence is today possibly the most cumbersome, time consuming, bureaucratic and expensive’. 37

(c) In the present arrangement, with the military out of any government mechanism the political leadership has little stake in the defence effort as a consequence there is no lobby in the legislature or the cabinet championing the military’s cause. This coupled with bureaucratic inertia has ensured that no really novel and far-sighted thinking ever emanates from within the military or the government. This is unlike in every other established democratic system. 38 In such a structure India is unlikely to ever have a Robert MacNamara, Lee Aspen or Michael Rifkind who made substantial contributions to defence innovation in the USA and UK respectively.

(d) Some like George Tanham believe that the Indian bureaucracy services especially powerful in the absence of stable political leadership at the center, react rather than initiate. Their training, their social background, and the influence of Fabian and Socialist thought does’ not encourage individual initiative. Hence strategic innovation will not come from within the traditional government bureaucracy. 39

(e) At the bureaucratic level key issues are not addressed on the plea ‘that these are fundamental issues to be decided by the political leadership and in the political leadership there is no adequate strength of will and purpose to think through these issues. Those who argue this way know full well that this can never be done by the political leadership without detailed work at the bureaucratic level and the bureaucracy has never posed the problem in this manner. 40

(f) Force planning is neither a team effort nor a top down policy driven, but a bottom up ‘exercise with each higher level having authority to override with no responsibility for the end product. More in the nature of a ‘hurdle race’ at each successive level. 41

(g) There is no recognised body capable of understanding fully the demands of the armed forces, eg; a perspective plan drawn up by the services against a threat assessment, military tasks and a chosen strategy and put up to the government, is adjusted somewhat by the MOD and forwarded to finance and the Cabinet for approval. Here again it is evaluated (primarily on financial/economic criteria). The above could result in a 25 percent cut in plan with little evaluation on threat, strategy and tasks. Since the revenue budget is reasonably inelastic, the bulk of the cuts are on capital/modernisation and the remainder on non-controversial ‘invisible’s’ like readiness and sustainability, leading to increased voids and ‘hollowness’, said to be over Rs 36,000 cr 42 for the Army, seriously eroding the deterrent Force Structure and Strategy as evident at Kargil.

(h) A major failing of the existing system is costly delay, accompanied by faulty information exchange in decision-making, avoidable duplication, wasteful expense and sub-optimal administration and operational efficiency. 43

(i) The question of alternative use of forces and different operational concept begs the fundamental question of services roles and missions. This is one of the most contentious issues around and one where most of the players try to avoid direct confrontations because the stakes are so high. However that is precisely why the question should be on the table and why any analysis addressing force structure choice must deal with it explicitly. But existing structures with little jointmanship and a higher leadership inadequately informed of the nuances of operational issues, making the right choices is not possible. Hence drift, status quo and turf wars continue. Illustratively, the relative roles of our air and ground forces into halting an armoured offensive. Only a broad enough force structure analysis would help policy makers and the services themselves, define the most appropriate niche for different types of forces and help define roles accordingly.

(j) The defence services possess the staff required for coherent thinking and systematic presentation but they are neither part of the decision-making loop nor integrated among themselves. Thus individual services and sometimes jointly, they do present proposals on macro issues of national security, but they represent ‘a view’, and cannot objectively represent an overall point of view.

(k) The perspective planning structures created within the service are:

(i) Unable to fully exploit their potential due to lack of policy and financial guidelines/commitments by government.

(ii) The planning process is still largely devoid of scientific and management oriented techniques.

(l) As the three services are out of the planning process (if any) of the government they read the threats as they see them, define their own needs and expenditure priorities. There is nowhere else in government any mechanism to act as a check on the validity of decisions made by each service headquarters. The civilian bureaucracy lacking specialist knowledge of the subject has only the option of yes, no, or defer. They are incapable of offering alternatives and rationales which should be their duty. This has also led to excessive individualism of the Indian armed forces and distortion of priorities and resultant drag on the system instead of synergy which is the hallmark of virtually all modern defence forces. Some believe this malady has also permeated to different arms within the three services who seek vertical integration with a view to fighting the enemy all by itself. 44

(m) The Chiefs of Staff ‘prefer to have the trappings of a theatre Commander-in-Chief instead of playing the role of planners of national security, 45 thereby devoting inadequate time and effort to staff functions like planning.

(n) The long-term planning in defence has been highly erratic due to preoccupation of the higher military establishment with operational role, inadequate attention to the planning and force development components and absence of direct interaction with other government agencies and departments’ 46 In addition staff tenures at directive level are unstable and short.

(o) A command and leadership oriented army with a larger than its share of responsibility with regard to force structure planning has not developed adequate scientific and managerial skills for such a complex endeavour. The budgetary inputs and operations research quantitative techniques need to be tailored to facilitate decision-making. The Tenth Finance Commission and parliamentary Standing Committees have raised some of these issues.

(p) The individualistic way of doing things is so ingrained that the DPS designed to fill the need for inter service cooperation, joint operational planning and standardising logistic support, is considered a hindrance to individual service ambitions and has, therefore, been reduced to a parking slot for many service officers marking time in Delhi pending more substantial postings. 47 In six years the DPS has had six different Directors General heading it. 48


The Way Ahead

Implementing change in government structures and mechanisms is not easy as the logic of a case and good intentions may make it out to be. Those attempting change must be aware of and reckon with these difficulties. A management approach based on the awareness of ground realities and behavioural patterns of organisations and individuals who man them is essential.

In the mid eighties when the Labour Party in Britain wished to propose some radical defence reforms, they asked the Oxford Research Group to carry out a preliminary study of the problems of implementing its defence policy. Its conclusions were sobering : 49

(a) There are no existing mechanisms for such a reversal (of Policy), no procedures and few precedents. Labour will be confronting not a single, powerful and permanent establishment but a dozen establishments strongly opposed to some aspects of its policy.

(b) Labour can expect stiff opposition, especially the Fabian tactic of delay in which the civil services so excel. Its opponents in Whitehall will not lose the will to resist; they will merely be driven underground, where they will be far harder to deal with and more difficult to identify.

Some steps to facilitate progress are:

a) Our first endeavour must be to accept the fundamental flaws in our decision-making system so that rectification can be attempted. But such an exercise must recognise the difficulties it would experience from existing ‘gatekeepers’. The impetus for change must come from those not having a vested interest in the status quo.

(b) Implementation of the 1991 high level report of the ‘Committee on Defence Expenditure’ headed by a former Minister of State for Defence which has been shelved, partly because it recommended reforming decision-making structure and processes–which it implied was the cause of the uneconomical and irrational functioning of the services and the MOD. It is also supposed to have advised that the direct role of the military in decision-making on defence and national security matters be increased. It also recommended a model for a Joint Services approach which is essential for synergetic operations on the modern battlefield. 50

(c) A clearly articulated National Security Policy laying out the National Security Objectives which become the reference points for any defence planning.

(d) A firm long term commitment of resources in conformity with the military objectives that the force structure will endeavour to achieve.

(e) An attitudinal change especially at the higher ranks of the military and civil services is essential to break out of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mould and work as a team. This will ensure integrated thinking and action where the bureaucratic machinery is not just involved in ‘approving’ policy and proposals but also formulating them–which will bring with it commitment from the team. Such team effort can include multi disciplinary inputs from experts, academics and scientists.

(f) A CDS which presupposes an integrated staff and ministry is essential to examine competing interests and ensure jointmanship. The integrated MOD must have a strategic planning division 51 staffed by civilian and defence officers tasked to define doctrine, strategy and overall policy including assessment and planning. It would also serve as the node for inter-ministerial coordination with the Defence Planning Group under the NSC.

(g) The existing National Security system needs a dedicated staff to overcome its deficiencies. Its primary functions should include, advice to the PM on National Security matters, after carrying out detailed analysis of various options and manage the interagency process.

(h) The Strategic Defence Review carried out by the NSAB has recommended a Defence Planning and Strategic Group under the NSC. This group is designed primarily for integrated planning and restructuring of the armed forces. 52 Details of this proposal are still not available, however it is likely to address a number of the shortcomings of the existing system that have been highlighted–including the bid for a defence budget of three percent of GDP.



This paper focused primarily on the initiator of the force structuring process namely the National Security and Defence Policy. Only a coherent defence policy will mandate a coherent integrated force structure. The shortcomings in this regard are primarily due to the existing decision-making architecture which does not have the required accountability and expertise to fashion these policies. The only organisation with some expertise and mechanism is firstly out of the decision-making loop and secondly its proposals on force structure, are not examined holistically, but only on a financial audit basis. A thorough review of the National Security System in its entirety has been recommended by the Kargil Review Committee Report.

The mechanisms to rectify the anomalies and shortcomings have been suggested over the years, but concerted political endeavour has eluded the Nation. The half-hearted attempts have not been able to get past the entrenched interests. The requisite resolve is necessary to overcome the obscure logic for the status quo, which is primarily turf related.



Note *: Research Fellow, IDSA.  Back.

Note 1: Army Training Command, “Economic Strategies Affecting Army Modernisation”, (Shimla, Nov 98), p.3.  Back.

Note 2: Col Ravi Pillai (Retd.), Indian Defence Review, April 1994, vol. 9(3), (New Delhi: Lancer Publication), p.78.  Back.

Note 3: Ministry of Defence Report 1999-2000, Government of India, p.14  Back.

Note 4: Chris Smith, India’s Adhoc Arsenal; Direction or Drift in Defence Policy? SIPRI, (Oxford University Press, 1994).  Back.

Note 5: John R Brinkerhoff, International Military and Defence Encylopedia, ed. TN Dupuy, (USA: Brassey’s, 1993), p.978  Back.

Note 6: Ted Greenwood, Security Studies for the 1990s, (US: Brassey’s; 1993) p.185.  Back.

Note 7: Ray S. Cline, World Power Assessment: A Calculus of Strategic Drift (Boulder Cdo; Westview Press 1975) as quoted in Power Strategy and Security ed Klans Knorr, (Princeton University Press, 1983), p.14.  Back.

Note 8: Adapted from, Daniel, J. Kaufman, US National Security; A Framework for Analysis (Lexington: Lexington Books 1989), p.584.  Back.

Note 9: Adapted from, A Composite Approach to Air Force Planning, (Santa Monica, California: RAND, 1998), p.15.  Back.

Note 10: Gaining New Military Capacity: An Experiment in Concept Development, (Santa Monica, California: RAND, 1998), p.4.  Back.

Note 11: UK Defence Capability Planning, Brassey’s Defence Yearbook, (UK, 1997), p.60.  Back.

Note 12: Assumption Based Planning, (Santa Monica: RAND, 1997), p.37.  Back.

Note 13: Report of Standing Committee on Defence (95-96), 11th Lok Sabha, p.4.  Back.

Note 14: Estimates Committee (1992-93) Nineteenth Report, 10th Lok Sabha, p.4.  Back.

Note 15: David Little, “Morality and National Security”, cited in Morality and Foreign Policy: Realpolitic Revisited, Kenneth M. Jensen and Elizabeth Faulker (Washington DC : United States Institute of Peace, 1991), p.2.  Back.

Note 16: n. 13, p.1.  Back.

Note 17: n. 13, p.4.  Back.

Note 18: Little n. 15.  Back.

Note 19: For a near comprehensive list of National Security Objectives, see Lt Gen KK Hazari, “National Interests: Formulation of National Policy and Strategic Concepts”, Indian Defence Review, April 1994, Vol. 9 (2) p.17.  Back.

Note 20: Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, 4 ed., (London: Meridian Books, 1960), p.49.  Back.

Note 21: Jaswant Singh, Defending India, (Bangalore: Macmillan India Ltd., 1999), p.13.  Back.

Note 22: Maj Gen DK Palit, VrC and Maj Gen AA Rudra, His Service in Three Armies and Two World Wars (New Delhi: Reliana, 1997).  Back.

Note 23: K. Subrahamanyam, “Evolution of Indian Defence Policy 1947-64”, in History of the Congress Party (Delhi: AICC and Vikas Publishing House, 1990).  Back.

Note 24: George K Tanham, Indian Strategic Thought, (Santa Monica: RAND, 1996), p.52.  Back.

Note 25: “Effective Decision-Making”, College of Defence Management, (Secundrabad, 1998), p.2.  Back.

Note 26: n. 9, p.42.  Back.

Note 27: William Wallace, “The Foreign Policy Process in Britain” (London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Catham House, 1975), p.49.  Back.

Note 28: CL Sulzberger, “A Shrewdness of Kissinger”, The New York Times, Dec 24, 1972 cited in German National Security Organisation, p.11.  Back.

Note 29: George K Tanham, “Indian Strategy in Flux”, in Securing India: Strategic Thought and Practice ed., Kanti Bajpai and Amitabh Mattoo, (Mansarovar Publications: New Delhi, 1996) p.133.  Back.

Note 30: The Gazette of India: Extraordinary no. 281 / 29 / 6 / 98 TS 16 April 99.  Back.

Note 31: Hindustan Times, December 27, 1999.  Back.

Note 32: MOD Report 1997-98, Government of India, p.10.  Back.

Note 33: Jaswant Singh n. 21, p.109.  Back.

Note 34: n. 14, p.27.  Back.

Note 35: Tanham n. 29, p.135.  Back.

Note 36: Brahma Challeney ed., Securing India’s Future in the New Millennium, (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1999), p.585.  Back.

Note 37: Jaswant Singh n. 21, p.108.  Back.

Note 38: n. 13, p.23.  Back.

Note 39: Tanham n. 24, p.60.  Back.

Note 40: K. Subramanium, Our National Security, (New Delhi: Vikas, 1978), p.4.  Back.

Note 41: n. 14, p.29.  Back.

Note 42: Bharat Karnad, “Making Do with Less: Reordering Priorities”, USI National Security Seminar, (New Delhi, 1996).  Back.

Note 43: Admiral VS Shekhawat, “Restructuring of Defence Force including the Ministry of Defence” in USI, Journal, July-Sept 1999, p.326.  Back.

Note 44: Bharat Karnad, “Rethinking National Security, Reorganising for Defence”, Peace Initiatives, May-June 1996, p.39.  Back.

Note 45: K Subramanyam in foreward to Defending India by Jaswant Singh, (New Delhi: Macmillan, 1999), p.xxvi.  Back.

Note 46: n. 13, p.24.  Back.

Note 47: Karnad n. 44, p.39.  Back.

Note 48: n. 13, p.13.  Back.

Note 49: “Who Decides? Study of British Nuclear Weapons Making” (Oxford Research Group 1986).  Back.

Note 50: Karnad, n. 44, p..37.  Back.

Note 51: Jasjit Singh, India’s Defence Spending, (New Delhi: Knowledge World, 2000), p.84.  Back.

Note 52: Hindustan Times, January 2, 2000.  Back.