Reports stated that the Government has begun approving the army’s restructuring plans proposed by the present army chief. General Bipin Rawat, had on commencement of his tenure, ordered four studies. These involved restructuring the field force for enhancing operational efficiency, reorganizing army HQs, cadre review for officers and re-evaluating terms of engagement of rank and file. In the interim, the DB Shekatkar committee was formed which also submitted its report on rightsizing of the army.
The current army organization is based on the second world war model of the British. Over the years there has been an improvement in every field, communications, fire power, mobility and availability of real time data. Further, the operational environment has witnessed multiple changes with the advent of a nuclear overhang. Thus,future wars may be limited in depth and of shorter durations. Nature of operations have perforce shifted from defensive to offensive.
Within the army, with its steep pyramid, large percentages of officers are overlooked for no fault but because of lack of vacancies, adding to heartburn. Soldiers are compelled to retire early to maintain a young profile, though their physical fitness and ability to perform remains suitable.
The studies aimed to find solutions to these complex issues. The findings were discussed in multiple forums prior to being accepted. Balakote occurred during this period which demonstrated a change in India’s response to Pak’s misadventures in the future and added to inputs.
Recommendations for operational changes were finalized after multiple test bed exercises and wargames were successfully conducted in near real time scenarios. These were then projected to the MoD for approval. Reports from last week state that approvals have commenced.
The creation of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), meant to replace erstwhile Infantry Divisions, with reduced manpower,has been accepted as the future and its implementation would commence soon. Apart from giving a boost to the capabilities of the field force, it would also reduce manpower at every level. Initially they would be implemented for the western theatre and subsequently for other theatres.
IBGs would be tailormade for specific terrain and tasks and be structured accordingly. They would be faster to mobilize and launch as compared to the present heavy armoured formations which take immense time and resources to be operationally deployed. Additionally, fire support essential for fulfilment of its mission would be inherent to it. By placing them directly under Corps HQs, it would obviate the need for Division HQs.
Though smaller in size to existing divisions, they would be commanded by Maj Gens. This would over time lead to savings in manpower.Some divisions, which could become surplus after such a reorg would become part of offensive plans in other sectors.
The second study on restructuring the army HQs was not aimed at enhancing vacancies of any other cadre, including civilian, but reducing levels of processing and decision making. Most branches were overstaffed and could do with lesser staff. The study suggested reducing layers within layers in army HQs. In the present concept, processing of cases commenced from the lowest level, which would in future commence from the next higher levels, cutting down staff at lowest levels. This will reduce the red tape culture so prevalent in HQs while enhancing decision-making.
Simultaneously, there were two different departments handling procurement. Demands under the revenue head was being processed by one branch and under the capital head by another. This on occasions, led to duplication of demands as both departments processed cases under their respective responsibilities direct to the MoD. It gave MoD the leeway to turn down procurement demands claiming duplication. It added to delays. By placing both under one Deputy Chief, now being termed as Deputy Chief ‘Capability Systems’, this confusion will end and placing demands coordinated. Similarly, other departments needing to function in cohesion are being amalgamated.
Cadre restructuring for enhancing satisfaction levels of officers is also proposed. While there is a need to change the present holding by enhancing the strength of the support cadre and reducing strength of the permanent cadre, career interests of those serving at present need to be catered for. Thus, service HQs have proposed a single board from Colonel to Major General.
There are other suggestions also in the pipeline, as a part of recommendations being processed to the MoD. A proposal to stop re-employment and make retirement age 58 for all officers is being pushed. Simultaneously is the intention to grant the rank of Brigadier to all officers prior to their retirement. This would enhance satisfaction and be an incentive for those who continue to serve.
Jawans commence retirement from the young age of 35 onwards. This is because of the need to maintain a younger profile. This has its own drawbacks for the soldier as at that age his personal liabilities are maximum, with growing children and aging parents. Further, pension alone is insufficient to cater for his growing needs compelling jawans to seek alternate employment, which is generally that of a security guard.
There is also a difference in employment pattern for soldiers of arms and services in operations. Senior NCOs and JCOs, much older in age have led their troops effectively, even in toughest conditions in operations, proving that to some level, age is just a number. Considering this factor, a proposal to extend the service age of soldiers is also being proposed. While around 50 is being discussed, the final age has yet to be determined. The longer the soldier serves, the higher would be his pension, as it is based on years of service. It would obviate his need for a second employment. Simultaneously, there are options being considered for maintaining a younger profile of the forces, while increasing ages of jawans.
These studies aimed at enhancing efficiency at every level, removing age old structures, catering for enhancement in technology,amalgamating organizations and departments which needed better coordination are now close to bearing fruits. With the Government supporting this move, implementation appears around the corner.
(The author is Major General (Retd)