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Basics are Important

The expert committee constituted post Kargil War failed to recommend reforms in procurement structures

Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd) Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd)

Group of Ministers on National Security, constituted in the wake of the Kargil War, suggested constitution of dedicated institutional structure to undertake the complete gamut of acquisition functions to inject a higher degree of professionalism in the process, and reduce delays. It also stressed the need for the integration of civil and military components to ensure ‘jointness’ amongst all decision-making entities.

Consequently, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) was constituted under the defence minister. This overarching body gives approval in principle to Long Term Perspective Plan (LTPP) of the defence services. It also approves all capital acquisition proposals identifying them as ‘Buy’, ‘Buy and Make’ and ‘Make’ cases. In other words, DAC decides whether equipment is to be bought outright; or is to be bought along with technology transfer for subsequent manufacture within the country; or is to be indigenously developed through own research and development route.

Defence Procurement Board, Defence Production Board and Defence Development Board have been constituted to implement the decisions flowing from DAC. Defence Procurement Board functions under the defence secretary and executes ‘Buy’ and ‘Buy and Make’ decisions. It monitors all major procurement cases and has the powers to invoke rules governing emergency purchases for sanction of the defence minister. A new integrated set-up called the Acquisition Wing has been created with members from the civil services, the defence services and the defence finance to implement all procurement decisions. It is headed by the Director General Acquisitions (DG Acq).

Defence Production Board has been constituted under the secretary Defence Production. Its primary task is to produce the required defence equipment indigenously after receiving technology either from abroad under ‘Buy and Make’ decisions or from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under ‘Make’ decisions.

The third board is Defence Research and Development Board, which functions under the secretary Defence Research and Development. It is responsible to progress, monitor and report on all indigenous research and development programmes flowing from ‘Make’ decisions of DAC. It also recommends suitable evaluation and assessment processes.

As a number of sub-categories of the three primary procurement routes have been created over a period of time, responsibilities assigned to the three boards have also undergone corresponding changes. However, the basic arrangement has remained unaffected.

Unfortunately, all the above structures function within the ministry of defence (MoD). As was to be expected, they have become a part of the slothful bureaucratic environment, thereby defeating the very purpose of their creation. Many consider this to be the biggest weakness of India’s defence acquisition regime and the primary reason for its failure to deliver.

Vacillation of the Expert Committee
The Dhirendra Singh Committee was constituted by MoD in May 2015 to evolve a policy framework to facilitate ‘Make in India’ in defence manufacturing and align the policy evolved with Defence Procurement Procedure – 2013 (DPP 2013); and to suggest the requisite amendments to remove the bottlenecks in the procurement process and also simplify/rationalise various aspects of the defence procurement.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar with service chiefs
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar with service chiefs

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